Thu, Dec 15, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Wen refuses to be pen pals with Koizumi

AP , KUALA LUMPUR

Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, right, asks China's Premier Wen Jiabao for a pen during the signing of the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the East Asia summit in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

Where frosty relations between China and Japan are concerned, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) appeared to make clear his continuing displeasure with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi when he ignored Koizumi's request to borrow his pen at a signing ceremony yesterday at the East Asia Summit in Malaysia.

Wen had already refused to formally meet one-on-one with Koizumi at the summit amid a feud over the Japanese leader's visits to a shrine honoring war dead, including those executed for war crimes committed in China and elsewhere.

As leaders of the newly inaugurated East Asia Summit were signing a declaration on the group's establishment, Koizumi, seated next to Wen, leaned over and asked to borrow his pen.

Wen ignored him for several seconds until Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, smiling broadly, intervened to repeat the request.

Wen then passed the pen to Koizumi with a smile, but the incident was widely noted amid an otherwise uneventful ceremony that concluded the 16-nation summit's formal business.

The snub came just a day after Koizumi said that he failed to understand why Wen had allowed the disagreement to spoil their meeting.

"No two nations are without their share of differences. I cannot understand why China won't have a meeting because of one problem," Koizumi said.

Wen on Monday had said Koizumi was fully responsible for the freeze in high-level contacts because his five visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine while serving as prime minister had "deeply hurt the feelings of the Chinese people."

Wen has ignored most of Koizumi's attempts at affability during the summit's group photos and other public events, although the men did banter about seafood during a luncheon on Monday.

Addressing a news conference later, Abdullah refused to comment on the incident.

"Don't read into body language. I don't want to read into that," Abdullah said.

However, he added, that the China-Japan row had not affected the summit.

"They were participating in the discussions. They were sitting together ... they will sort it out," he said.

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