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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 06:00 GMT 07:00 UK
Koizumi's 'deep remorse' for war
Japanese war veterans
War veterans were joined at the shrine by politicians
Japan's prime minister Junichiro Koizumi has expressed "deep remorse and sincere condolence" to the victims of Japan's actions during the World War II.

But Mr Koizumi's comments, made during an official ceremony to mark the 56th anniversary of Japan's surrender, are unlikely to quell the anger of its Asian neighbours.

Countries like China and South Korea, who remember Japanese atrocities during the war, are still furious about his decision to visit the controversial Yakusuni shrine for the war dead on Monday.

The shrine, a symbol of state Shintoism, is dedicated to Japan's war dead, including several condemned war criminals.

More controversy

But as proof the controversy is not over, on Wednesday five cabinet ministers and several other senior politicians visited Yakusuni too.

Mr Koizumi marked the anniversary by attending a secular ceremony with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

Junichiro Koizumi
Koizumi: 'significant damage and pain'
In a speech to open the ceremony, Mr Koizumi said: "Our country has caused many countries, especially our Asian neighbours, significant damage and pain".

Akihito and Empress Michiko bowed before a huge bed of chrysanthemums - the imperial flower

Mr Koizumi also visited Japan's tomb of the unknown soldier, known as Chidorigafuchi.

China's foreign ministry said Mr Koizumi's visit "damaged the political foundations of China-Japan relations".

And Japan's always volatile relations with South Korea are once more badly inflamed.

The sense of outrage is made worse by a recent Japanese Government decision to approve a new school textbook which, like many others before, glosses over atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in wartime.

Antagonising Asia

Japan's Asian neighbours are held back from showing their anger through sanctions, because of Japan's enormous economic importance.

But this storm has undermined trust towards Japan in the region.

Abroad, opposition is sure to harden against Mr Koizumi's ambition for his country to play a bigger international role, especially in military peacekeeping.

His goal of pushing through a revision of Japan's constitution, removing the ban on "the threat or use of force" that was imposed after WWII, may also be harder to achieve.

And by adopting what is seen as a nationalist stance on this anniversary Mr Koizumi risks losing the record high popularity he has enjoyed in his first four months in office.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"The right wing has been given added confidence"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Japan's war shrine
Should Koizumi have visited?
See also:

14 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Protests mount over Koizumi's shrine visit
13 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Anger over Japan PM's shrine visit
13 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Koizumi visits war shrine
13 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi's balancing act
13 Aug 01 | Media reports
Japanese premier's shrine statement
14 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's controversial war shrine
24 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: Junichiro Koizumi
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