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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 June 2007, 03:18 GMT 04:18 UK
Taiwan ex-leader in shrine visit
Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui
Mr Lee said there was nothing political or historical about his trip
Taiwan former President Lee Teng-hui has visited the Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo in a move likely to anger China.

Mr Lee, 84, said it was a private trip to pay his respects to his elder brother, who died fighting for Japan in WWII when Taiwan was a Japanese colony.

Yasukuni is seen by China as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

The visit could lead to tensions between China and Japan's leaders who are preparing to meet on the sidelines of the G8 summit.

But Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had said he would not prevent Mr Lee's pilgrimage and said he did not expect it to harm relations with Beijing.

The shrine honours 2.5 million war dead, including soldiers from Taiwan and Korea who were drafted in to Japan's military.

Controversy over Yasukuni centres on the fact that 14 Japanese war criminals are venerated at the shrine, alongside other World War II dead.

'Strong dissatisfaction'

"It is completely personal, please don't think of anything political or historical. As family, to show respect to my elder brother by visiting the shrine is something I must do," Mr Lee said before the trip to Yasukuni.

Yasukuni shrine (archive picture)
China says the shrine glorifies Japan's militaristic past
The ex-leader has been a strong critic of Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that it has vowed to retake - by force if necessary.

On Wednesday, Beijing accused Mr Lee of using his trip to push for Taiwanese independence, and for trying to undermine China-Japan relations.

Mr Lee began an 11-day cultural tour of Japan last week. Prior to his visit, China expressed "strong dissatisfaction" with Japan for allowing the trip.

Japan has official diplomatic relations with Beijing, but not with Taipei.


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