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Thursday, 17 August, 2000, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Row over Japan war shrine
War veteran at Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine
China says the cermony is an insult to Japan's wartime victims
China has called off a visit by a Japanese minister two days after he visited a controversial shrine where several war criminals are buried.

Transport Minister Hajime Morita was one of 10 Japanese ministers who paid homage at the Yasakuni Shrine on Tuesday to mark the 55th anniversary of the country's surrender during World War II.

Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine
Mr Morita attended in an official capacity
Mr Morita was one of three ministers to visit the shrine in Tokyo in an official capacity rather than as a private citizen.

China and other Asian countries consider the annual ceremony an insult to victims of Japan's military aggression.

North Korea on Thursday branded the occasion "an unbearable mockery and insult to the peoples of Korea and other countries of Asia".

The shrine venerates around 2.5 million Japanese who have died in wars since the mid 19th Century, including war criminals such as World War II prime minister General Hideki Tojo.

Bullet train

Mr Morita had planned to visit China next month to promote Japan's bid to build a high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai.

Beijing blamed the sudden cancellation on scheduling difficulties and made no mention of Mr Morita's visit to the shrine.

However, several reports in Japan said the minister had been snubbed because of his attendance at the ceremony.

The conservative Sankei Shimbun newspaper said it was extremely unusual for a minister's visit to be cancelled.

"It appears to be a Chinese backlash against Morita's official visit to the Yasukuni Shrine," it added.

Militarism

China had objected to the ceremony last Friday and again on Tuesday.

North Korea has also lashed out at the 10 ministers for their visit to the shrine.

"This is clear evidence proving the rapid militarisation of the Japanese society," the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Thursday.

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15 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
War memorial divides Japan
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