China on Monday strongly protested over Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's controversial visit to a war shrine, calling it a "serious provocation".
"The Chinese government firmly opposes Prime Minister Koizumi worshipping the Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines A-grade war criminals," China's ambassador to Japan Wang Yi said in Tokyo, according to the Xinhua news agency.
Xinhua said Wang "strongly criticised" Koizumi's visit, taking particular offence as it came on the day China's second manned spacecraft returned safely to Earth, a day of great celebration for the country.
"[October] the 17th is the day of the victorious return of China's manned space flight Shenzhou VI and the Chinese people are celebrating. Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni shrine on this day is a serious provocation to all the Chinese people," Wang said.
He indicated Koizumi's move has damaged China-Japan relations, which are already characterised by Beijing as the worst in about 30 years of diplomatic ties.
"Koizumi must shoulder the historical responsibility for damaging Sino-Japanese relations," Wang said.
Koizumi on Monday paid his fifth visit to the shrine since taking office in April 2001.
The visits to the Tokyo shrine, which honours 2,5-million Japanese war dead including some infamous war criminals, have strained ties with China and South Korea, two countries that suffered immense losses during Japan's invasion in World War II, reports Agency Frane Press. I.L.
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