Sun, Nov 20, 2005 - Page 5 News List

S Korean president to Koizumi: stop war shrine visits

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA

President Roh Moo-hyun of South Korea urged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan to stop visiting a nationalistic Japanese war memorial in a meeting here between the leaders on Friday, saying the visits raised fears of a revival of Japanese militarism.

The bilateral talks, which took place on the sidelines of the APEC summit meeting, took place just a month after Koizumi's latest trip to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, a memorial that commemorates Japan's war dead, including high-ranking war criminals from World War II. The visit aggravated Japan's already strained relations with its Asian neighbors.

Prayed for peace

Koizumi defended his visits to the shrine, saying that he prayed for peace there. But Japan has found itself continually confronted at the summit meeting here over its handling of its wartime conduct, and has been diplomatically shunned by its neighbors in a region where China's influence is growing rapidly.

Because of Koizumi's latest visit to the shrine, Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) rejected Koizumi's request for a meeting here.

Roh agreed to one, but Seoul pointedly downgraded Friday's talks as a "courtesy meeting" with the South Korean host of the summit meeting. Also, Roh refused to say on Friday whether he would go through with a scheduled visit to Japan next month.

The Japanese-South Korean meeting contrasted with South Korea's increasingly warm ties with China. In a meeting between the leaders of those countries on Wednesday, Roh and Hu said they were united in their views of the region's history against those of a "neighboring country."

Frictions

In a brief speech at the summit meeting on Friday evening, Koizumi played down the frictions with China, telling the assembled leaders that Japan's economic ties with China were growing and moving in the right direction.

"There is absolutely nothing to worry about in Japan-China relations," Koizumi reportedly said. "China's growth is an opportunity."

In their 30-minute meeting on Friday, Roh told Koizumi that South Korea was not interested in further apologies from Japan about its wartime conduct.

"Stop apologizing; actions are more important," Roh told Koizumi, according to Mira Sun, a spokeswoman for the South Korean leader.

Koizumi, who has shored up his domestic support partly by appealing to Japan's rising nationalist sentiments and taking a tough stance against his Asian neighbors, said after the summit meeting that he was considering returning to the shrine next year. He told reporters that he would make a decision "appropriately," the same expression he had used before his most recent visit.

Criticism of his trips to Yasukuni, regarded by many as a symbol of unrepentant Japanese militarism, originated for the most part in China and South Korea. But after last month's visit it widened to include the rest of Asia, as well as North America and Europe.

Grievances

Under Koizumi, Japan has responded to sweeping changes in the region by further strengthening its security ties with the US. The two Koreas, once fierce enemies, are moving increasingly closer, and they share, with China, historical grievances against Japan.

Standing next to US President George W. Bush in Kyoto, Japan, early this week, Koizumi rejected the criticism that he has made Japan too dependent on the US, even as he has antagonized Asian neighbors.

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