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Thursday, November 26, 1998 Published at 12:55 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Japan refuses China clear-cut apology

Neither leader signed the declaration

Japan has refused to make a written apology to China for atrocities committed before and during World War II.

The BBC's Jim Fish: Asia's two giants look to a future still clouded by their shared and often bitter memories
In a joint declaration issued during a visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin to Japan, Tokyo expressed "deep remorse", but did not apologise for Japanese aggression.

The final statement said Japan "painfully [felt] its responsibility for inflicting grave suffering and damage on the people of China by invading China at one period of history".

The declaration was published six hours later than scheduled after intense wrangling about its wording.

It was not signed by President Jiang or Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

[ image: Mr Jiang says an apology is key to developing future relations]
Mr Jiang says an apology is key to developing future relations
Mr Obuchi did verbally offer a "heartfelt apology over the colonial rule and aggression for one period" during talks with Mr Jiang, but similar words were not included in the written statement.

At a state dinner on Thursday, the Japanese emperor made no mention of the war in his speech. Such occasions have been used in the past for expressions of sympathy and regret.

At the same dinner, President Jiang warned that Japan must remember for eternity the lessons of its past aggression.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing said China and other Asian countries were concerned by regular denials by some in Japan of their country's war record.

The issue of apology has dominated Mr Jiang's visit - the first ever to Japan by a Chinese head of state.

Ahead of Mr Jiang's arrival, China had demanded there should be a stronger and unequivocal apology from Tokyo for the war, and a clearer "no compromise" statement about Taiwan, which Beijing views as a renegade province.

However, Japanese officials said it was never planned that Mr Jiang, and Mr Obuchi would sign the declaration or hold a joint press conference.

The BBC Tokyo Correspondent Juliet Hindell says the lack of a written apology highlights the fact that Japan is still struggling to come to terms with its past.

Apology to South Korea

Last month a similar Japanese-South Korean declaration was signed by Mr Obuchi and South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung during his visit to Tokyo.

[ image: 140,000 died in the notorious Nanjing massacre of 1937]
140,000 died in the notorious Nanjing massacre of 1937
Chinese officials had made it clear that they expected a similar unequivocal expression of remorse for the Japanese occupation of Manchuria in the 1930s and atrocities committed by its soldiers during World War II.

China says 20 million people died as a result of the war with Japan, leaving a legacy of bitterness that has clouded relations ever since.

But a spokesman for Prime Minister Obuchi told Reuters news agency that Japan could not agree to a signed written apology similar to that offered to South Korea because the cases were different.

"Our dealings with China and Korea are different; it's a different relationship," he said. "We colonised Korea, whereas we never colonised China."

Easier economic relations

[ image: Japanese activists protested against Chinese human rights violations]
Japanese activists protested against Chinese human rights violations
The emphasis of Mr Jiang's visit has, however, been on ways of increasing economic co-operation to help overcome the effects of the Asian financial crisis.

Accompanying Mr Jiang were officials in charge of economic planning, foreign trade, science and technology and the environment

The Chinese Government is keen to cultivate relations with its largest trade partner and largest source of economic aid.

Japan has recently extended $3bn worth of loans to China.

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