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S. Korea, China to Accept 1 Shrine Visit by Next Premier
Neighbouring countries are unhappy with Mr. Koizumi's visits.

The Chinese and South Korean governments intend to accept one visit to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine by the next Japanese leader after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, but only on condition that no more visits are made during his tenure, Kyodo News reported quoting informed Japanese sources as having said on Aug. 13, 2006. A spokesman at the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo said the report is "totally groundless."

"The Chinese side's position on the issue of visits to Yasukuni Shrine where Class-A war criminals are honored is very clear and there is no change," the spokesman said late Aug. 12. 2006.

"We hope this political obstacle hindering the normal development of China-Japan relations will be removed as soon as possible so that (bilateral relations) can be put back on a normal path of development," the spokesman said.

The Japanese sources said China and South Korea have exchanged opinions behind the scenes about taking a "joint stance" on the Yasukuni issue, given that Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, who supports Koizumi's visits to the Tokyo shrine, will most likely win the ruling Liberal Democratic Party presidential election in September and become the next premier.

The two countries have apparently unofficially informed Japanese government and ruling party officials of their intentions, but the sources believe there is little possibility of Abe's accepting such conditions as he has often expressed his desire to continue paying respects to the war dead.

China and South Korea, invaded and occupied by Japan before and during World War II, have been particularly furious about Koizumi's repeated visits to the shrine, which they regard as symbolic of Japanese militarism as a number of convicted Class-A war criminals are honored there along with the war dead.

The issue had prompted the two countries to suspend summit talks since Koizumi's visit last year.

The Japanese sources said the recent moves suggest the two countries have decided that a certain "concession" is necessary as long as Abe remains the front-runner to succeed Koizumi and as they feel it is necessary to quickly improve deteriorated ties with Japan to bring stability to Northeast Asia.

China and South Korea believe Abe will not make a visit to Yasukuni Shrine this year even if he becomes prime minister as it is known that he made a visit in April, according to the sources. But they think Abe could visit next year.

The sources said that if Abe then decides not to visit the shrine any more, the two countries will not take any countermeasures such as refusing mutual visits by top leaders.

But if the next Japanese premier decides to accept the conditions and refrain from visiting the shrine it could well draw criticism from elements within Japan, while a decision to continue such visits could lead to further deterioration in the ties between Japan and the two countries.






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