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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 April 2007, 05:51 GMT 06:51 UK
China warns Japan on shrine trips
Yasukuni shrine
The shrine is at the heart of tensions with Japan's neighbours
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has reportedly urged his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe not to visit a controversial Tokyo war shrine.

Mr Wen told Kyodo news agency that past Japanese leaders' visits had "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people".

He was speaking in Beijing, ahead of a trip to Japan designed to mend strained ties between the two nations.

Yasukuni Shrine is often the cause of such tensions, because critics see it as a symbol of past militarism.

The shrine honours Japan's war dead, including 14 World War II criminals, and China and South Korea say the shrine glorifies the country's often brutal wartime acts.

Renewed ties?

Relations between Tokyo and Beijing became strained under Mr Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, who made repeated visits to the shrine.

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

Both China and South Korea's leaders refused to meet Mr Koizumi over the issue.

But there has been a noticeable warming in relations since Mr Abe took power in September. He has already been to China to hold bilateral meetings, and Mr Wen is making what he described as an "ice-thawing" return visit to Tokyo next week.

Mr Abe has not visited the Yasukuni Shrine since he took office last September, and he has repeatedly refused to comment on whether he plans to go there in the future.

According to the Associated Press, he again continued to be vague about his intentions.

"My position on the Yasukuni issue is as stated before," Mr Abe is quoted as saying.

But he is known to have similar hawkish views to Mr Koizumi, and has already come under fire for playing down the role of "comfort women" forced into sexual slavery during World War II.

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