China refuses to accept Japanese visit

Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura was due in Beijing this month, but a Chinese spokesman said his country was "not in a position to receive him". Mr Koizumi visited the Yasukuni shrine on Monday, sparking Chinese complaints. The shrine honours Japan's war dead, including 14 people judged as war criminals after World War II.

Mr Machimura's visit had been intended to repair relations between the two countries, which have been strained by an ongoing row about Mr Koizumi's shrine visits, as well as disputes over gas fields and history text books.

Mr Koizumi's latest visit to the Yasukuni shrine came on the same day as China was celebrating the successful return to Earth of its manned Shenzhou VI spacecraft.

Given the present serious situation of China-Japan relations, this visit is not timely," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan. The statement came just hours after nearly 200 members of the Japanese parliament also went to the shrine. The MPs, who include senior members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, visit the shrine regularly. Mr Koizumi insisted he was going as a private citizen, and only wanted to honour the millions of Japanese killed in the war and to pray for peace, reports the BBS news. I.L.

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