[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005, 10:02 GMT
China cancels talks with Japan
Yasukuni shrine (archive picture)
Yasukuni Shrine has sparked numerous rows in Asia this year
China's foreign minister has cancelled a meeting with Japan and South Korea in protest at repeated visits by Japan's leader to a controversial war shrine.

The meeting was to have been held on the sidelines of an Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) summit which formally begins next week.

Host Malaysia's foreign minister told delegates on Friday that Asean member Burma must speed up democratic reforms.

Syed Hamid Albar said Burma's recalcitrance was embarrassing Asean.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said the meeting between himself and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts had been cancelled.

Built in 1869 to honour victims of the Boshin Civil War
Now venerates the souls of 2.5m of Japan's war dead
Those enshrined include 14 Class A war criminals

China had already cancelled a planned meeting between the three countries' leaders.

China and South Korea are angry because of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honours Japan's war dead, including 14 people judged as war criminals after World War II.

"The leader of a certain country is still worshipping war criminals. Surely this is wrong," Li Zhaoxing told reporters covering the Asean foreign ministers' meeting, which has already begun in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur.

"For an important leader of an important country to be so arrogantly and blatantly hurting the feelings of the people of other Asian countries, what sort of behaviour is this?" he said.

Slow to reform

Burma was also the subject of diplomatic frustration on Friday.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Burma needed to show more progress in its purported pursuit of democratic reforms, and to indicate when it planned to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from long-term house arrest.

"We respect the position of Myanmar [Burma] as a member of Asean, but at the same time I don't think any single country in Asean does not feel impatient, or does not feel uncomfortable, because it does create problems and difficulties for us," he said.

"In order to defend Myanmar together, Myanmar itself must be able to show us movement in respect of the roadmap [to democracy] as well as the position of Aung San Suu Kyi."

Next week's Asean summit differs from previous meetings in that it will bring together a bigger grouping of countries than usual.

Dubbed the East Asia Summit, it will gather Asean's 10 members and its usual summit attendees Japan, South Korea and China, with three new guests - India, Australia and New Zealand.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific