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Monday, 8 October, 2001, 07:26 GMT 08:26 UK
Koizumi apologises to China
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Beijing
Mr Koizumi wants to "gain understanding" in Beijing
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has issued a "heartfelt apology" to Chinese victims of Japan's wartime aggression during a one-day visit to Beijing.

The visit was aimed at improving relations soured by rows over Japan's military past and concerns over plans to change rules governing the actions of Japan's Self-Defence Force.

I felt again the horror of war

Junichiro Koizumi
Japan plans to bring in new laws by the end of the month to allow it to prove logistical support to US-led military action in Afghanistan.

But it wants to convince its neighbours that the changes do not mean a revival of Japan's military ambitions.

During Monday's visit Mr Koizumi laid a wreath at a Chinese war memorial and visited a museum dedicated to China's wartime resistance against Japan.

"Looking at this museum, I felt again the horror of war," he told reporters. "I looked at the various exhibits with a feeling of heartfelt apology and condolences for those Chinese people who were victims of aggression.

"We must not go to war again.

"Isn't that the best response to those who fell in the calamity of war?"

Regional row

In recent months, China has accused Japan of increasing militarism.

Yasukuni Shrine
The Yasukuni Shrine honours about 2.5m war dead, including 14 convicted war criminals
First, the Japanese Government approved a history textbook which China and South Korea says glosses over Japan's wartime atrocities. Then, in August, Mr Koizumi visited a controversial war shrine that honours convicted war criminals among Japan's war dead.

Mr Koizumi was to meet China's President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji during the visit, which came soon after the US and UK launched air strikes on Afghanistan in retaliation for the 11 September attacks on New York City and Washington.

Before leaving Japan, Mr Koizumi once again expressed support for the military action.

He plans to visit South Korea on 15 October, also to repair damaged relations following the textbook row and his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which South Korea opposed.

Seoul finally agreed to the visit by Mr Koizumi after months of negotiations and rejections. The two countries are co-hosting next year's football World Cup.

See also:

04 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi to visit Asian neighbours
05 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan moves to back US
13 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Anger over Japan PM's shrine visit
13 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Koizumi visits war shrine
17 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese schools reject textbook
13 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi's balancing act
13 Aug 01 | Media reports
Japanese premier's shrine statement
30 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Pressure over Japan PM's shrine visit
10 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Anger deepens in history book row
14 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi courts shrine controversy
14 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's controversial war shrine
24 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: Junichiro Koizumi
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