China condemned repeated visits by Japanese leaders to a war shrine in Tokyo,
saying Tuesday that ties between the two Asian powers were facing "harsh
difficulties" as a result.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said relations have "failed
to improve" in the past year.
"The responsibility does not lie with China or the Japanese people," Liu said
at a regular briefing. "It is because the Japanese leaders have taken an
erroneous attitude and insist on paying visits to the Yasukuni Shrine ... The
political basis for bilateral relations are undermined."
The shrine honors 2.5 million war dead, including convicted war criminals
from World War II. South Korea also has disapproved of the visits.
Tensions between China and Japan have been brewing over competing claims to
undersea resources and Beijing's growing military power. Also, the one-year
anniversary is approaching of demonstrations in Beijing and Shanghai against
Japan's use of schoolbooks that critics say downplay Tokyo's wartime aggression.
"China-Japan relations are faced with harsh difficulties and a difficult
period," Liu said. "We hope that Japanese leaders will proceed from the overall
interest of relations between the two sides and the development of Asia and
adopt a correct attitude on historical issues."
Last week, Chinese President Hu Jintao told a goodwill delegation from Tokyo
he was willing to hold a summit with Japanese leaders if Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi stopped visiting the shrine. Koizumi has done so five times
since taking office.
It was a rare conciliatory gesture from Hu, who last met with Koizumi at a
regional conference in Jakarta in 2005.
Japanese officials criticized the offer Tuesday, saying it made no sense.
"Don't you have to meet with someone if you want to resolve a problem?"
Foreign Minister Taro Aso said.