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2ND LD: Japanese, Chinese officials remain apart over shrine visits.

BEIJING, Feb. 21 Kyodo

(EDS: UPDATING)

Japanese ruling coalition lawmakers and Chinese Communist Party officials remained split on Tuesday over Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, with Japan saying the premier was paying homage as a private citizen but China saying it cannot accept such an excuse.

Hidenao Nakagawa, policy chief of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said in a meeting with the Chinese officials that the premier's visits were private and not intended to honor the 14 Class-A war criminals enshrined there.

''The premier has clearly said his visits are private ones,'' said a text of a speech delivered by Nakagawa. ''The difference between a private visit and an official one is that the premier can choose those he wants to show respect for,'' the text said.

''Prime Minister Koizumi has made clear that he is not visiting the shrine to show respect to the Class-A war criminals, but to do so toward the general war dead, who devoted their lives,'' according to the text.

One Chinese participant of the meeting said in a discussion session later that a distinction cannot be made between a visit as a private citizen and one as a public figure when the person paying homage is the nation's prime minister, according to Tatsuya Ito, an LDP lawmaker who was present at the meeting.

''A participant from the Chinese side said that for a figure with public duties, there is no way to differentiate between private and public roles,'' Ito told reporters after the meeting.

Tuesday's meeting on the issue was the first intended to bring together the Japanese ruling coalition parties and the Chinese Communist Party. While the two sides had agreed in 2004 to hold such a meeting in 2005, the plan had been postponed.

Among the Chinese attendants of the meeting was Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee.

Ito said Wang repeated China's call for a stop to the shrine visits in a speech he delivered earlier in the day, saying that giving them up ''does not mean that China or Japan is winning or losing a competition.''

Asked about the shrine visits at a regular press briefing later in the day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said, ''Japan should not hold on to any fantasies, use any excuses or look for reasons to window-dress this issue, or worse yet, try to push the responsibilities onto China.''

The root of the tensions in bilateral relations ''lies in the repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine by Japan's leader, as well as his inability to take a correct attitude over the issues of history,'' Liu said at a regular press briefing.

Koizumi has paid homage to the shrine once a year since taking office in 2001.

China has complained bitterly about the trips because of the war criminals enshrined there, and has refused to hold top-level meetings with Japan since Koizumi's latest trip to the shrine in October last year.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Feb 27, 2006
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