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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2005, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
China rebukes Japan over shrine
Chinese protesters in Hong Kong hold a banner reading "Overthrow Japan's militarism"  - archive picture
Japan's war record still stokes unease across China
China has rebuked Japan for repeatedly referring to a controversial war shrine during a visit to the country by Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi.

Ms Wu cut short her visit and flew home before a planned meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

The visit was meant to improve the countries' strained relations.

But China said it was "extremely unsatisfied" at Japanese comments about the shrine, which honours Japan's war dead, including some war criminals.

"To our regret, during Vice-Premier Wu Yi's stay in Japan, Japanese leaders repeatedly made remarks on visiting the Yasukuni shrine that go against the efforts to improve Sino-Japanese relations," foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

YASUKUNI SHRINE
Junichiro Koizumi visits the Yasukuni shrine, 1 January 2004
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

On Sunday, Chinese President Hu Jintao told members of Japan's ruling party, visiting Beijing, that they should stop going to the shrine, which China sees as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

'No apology'

Mr Koizumi is a regular visitor to the Tokyo shrine. Last week he defended his visits in parliament, arguing that he undertook them as a private individual, rather than as prime minister.

He has repeatedly said the visits are to honour the millions of Japanese killed in the war and to pray for peace.

Sino-Japanese relations have recently plunged to their lowest level for many years, with angry demonstrations in China last month against Japanese school textbooks that critics say gloss over Japan's wartime aggression.

Japan has asked for an explanation for Ms Wu's sudden departure on Monday, which Chinese officials said was because of "domestic duties".

"There was no word of apology," Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura told reporters.

"Even though urgent duty may be unavoidable, there is supposed to be a word of apology, and without it a society cannot function."

Mr Koizumi said he did not understand why their meeting had been cancelled, saying it was Beijing that had requested it in the first place.

But Japan's newspapers on Tuesday suggested the Chinese were provoked by Mr Koizumi's statement that he would continue to visit the shrine.

"It was very unfortunate since the meeting could have been a step toward improving Sino-Japanese relations," said the daily Mainichi Shimbun.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Japan's Prime Minister reacts to the war shrine row



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