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Japanese PM's shrine visit "stupid": European scholars
Updated: 2005-11-01 22:16

Two European scholars have criticized Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to the notorious Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo as a "stupid" move, which has drawn wide attention from Europe.

"This is the most stupid thing he could do," said Axel Berkofsky, an expert on East Asia from the Brussels-based European Policy Center, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

Berkofsky, who once studied and worked in Japan for several years, said it is impossible for Japan to improve ties with China as "Koizumi continues to visit the war shrine." He said it is "completely counterproductive."

"It is not understandable" why Koizumi visited the shrine despite the fact that he did know it would make the relations with China, South Korea and other Asian countries worse, he added.

Berkofsky said he believed that Koizumi is not interested in improving relations with China.

Stanley Crossick, the founding chairman of the European Policy Center, expressed similar views on Koizumi's shrine visit.

"This visit to a shrine which, among others, honors Japanese war criminals, seems to be a deliberate insult to the Chinese, Koreans and others who suffered appallingly at the hands of the Japanese," Crossick told Xinhua.

Crossick, who had dealt with Japanese law service in Europe before he set up the think tank in Brussels, has a special liking for studying international relations in east Asia. He is going to publish an article on Sino-Japanese ties on the European Voice, an English-language weekly.

Crossick said the shrine visit reveals a fact that "60 years after the end of the Second World War, there has been no true reconciliation between China and Japan."

Crossick compared the Sino-Japanese relations with those between France and Germany, pointing out that historical, political, cultural and leadership differences are the four underlining factors which explain why Franco-German reconciliation was much easier.

"German school text books tell the truth about World War II, while Japanese text books do not," he said.

After 1949, when the People's Republic of China was established, many in Washington mistakenly believed that China was controlled by Moscow, he said.

The United States, which decided to retain Japanese Emperor Hirohito, also failed to make the Japanese people acknowledge its collective guilt as a nation, he said, adding that "this was a serious error" in its policy-making.

Sino-Japanese relations have experienced hardship this year, which has drawn wide attentions from Europe.

In April, for instance, the European Union (EU) foreign ministers expressed "concerns" over the development of China-Japan relations during a gathering in Luxembourg.

The two experts maintained that good Sino-Japanese relations are essential for a stable Asia, and a stable Asia is conducive to a stable world.

Berkofsky said the volume of bilateral trade between China and Japan is huge and both are big markets for each other.

"It is so stupid to jeopardize the fruitful economic relations between China and Japan," he added.

On October 17, Koizumi paid his fifth Yasukuni visit despite strong opposition at home and abroad.

The Japanese prime minister has visited the Tokyo-based shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals responsible for Japan's aggression against its Asian neighbors before and during the World War II, once a year since taking office in April 2001.

Koizumi's previous visits triggered waves of protest from Japan's neighboring countries, especially from China and South Korea, creating a deep rift between Japan and the two countries.

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