Japanese prime minister faces criticism in Parliament over China crisis

Japan's top opposition leader accused Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Parliament on Wednesday of neglecting the country's Asian neighbors and failing to defuse escalating tensions with China.

"You have been barely interested in China and South Korea," said Katsuya Okada, leader of the opposition Democratic Party. "The Japan-China relationship, which had been built by the efforts of your predecessors, is now facing crisis during your term."

Chinese anger over a Japanese nationalist textbook, Koizumi's visits to a war shrine and other issues has erupted in several days of demonstrations in which Chinese protesters pelted the Japanese Embassy and restaurants with rocks.

Koizumi's government has demanded an apology from the Chinese government for the protests, which Beijing has blamed on Tokyo's failure to properly atone for atrocities committed during its occupation of parts of China in the 1930s and 40s.

The prime minister defended his policy, arguing that he had treated Japan's Asian neighbors as important regional partners and pledged to improve relations with them.

But he refused to apologize further for Japan's wartime actions.

"As victims of the war, many people in China still have hard feelings toward Japan and I don't deny that," Koizumi said. "But before accusing Japan of its responsibility, we should protest the violence resulting from the riots."

He added that Japan has shown its commitment to peace by not waging war in the 60 years since its World War II defeat in 1945.

"We also contributed large amounts of financial aid to China," Koizumi added.


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