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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 07:49 GMT 08:49 UK
Japan plays down China snub
Protests against Koizumi in South Korea
South Korea has also hotly protested against the visit
Japan has played down China's postponement of a visit by the Japanese Defence Minister, Gen Nakatani.

China has its reasons - I want to respect them

Junichiro Koizumi
China delayed the scheduled trip in protest against Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's weekend visit to the Yasukuni war shrine.

Beijing has also put off a visit by its naval vessels to Japan, which had been scheduled to take place next month.

The Japanese leader's visit to the controversial shrine, which honours a number of convicted war criminals, has sparked fierce protests across Asia.

Koizumi's response

Mr Koizumi said he respected China's decision.

"China has its reasons," he said on Wednesday, adding that he hoped the talks could be re-scheduled.

Koizumi visiting the Yasukuni shrine
Most Japanese leaders avoid the controversial annual visit
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a news conference: "We must consider how to deepen the relationship of trust.

"The visit will be made sometime eventually, considering its significance."

A Chinese Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday that Mr Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni shrine had "hurt the Chinese people's feelings, and harmed Sino-Japanese relations".

South Korea angered

South Korea has also made formal protests against the prime minister's visit to the war shrine.

South Korean Foreign Minister Choi Sung-hong summoned the Japanese ambassador on Monday and expressed "strong regrets" over the incident, which came less than six weeks before the two countries co-host the World Cup.

Mr Koizumi's visit to the shrine last year, the first by a serving Japanese prime minister in 16 years, also led to a barrage of protests.

But the BBC's Charles Scanlon says that Mr Koizumi may have intended this year's visit as a compromise because it avoided the traditional date of 15 August - when Japan's surrender ended World War II.

South Korea, China, and other Asian countries which suffered under Japan's war-time rule, view the shrine visit as an attempt to glorify Japan's past.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"Japan has in recent years repeatedly apologised for its war time deeds in China"
See also:

23 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi, one year on
23 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
China protests at Japanese shrine visit
22 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese shrine visit angers Seoul
09 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese book angers South Korea
01 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi shrine visit sparks lawsuits
15 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan apologises to South Korea
08 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi apologises to China
13 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi's balancing act
13 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Anger over Japan PM's shrine visit
22 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
World Cup hosts stress teamwork
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