A top Japanese official sharply criticized China on Thursday for refusing to meet with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as a protest of his visits to a Tokyo war shrine. Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, himself a supporter of Yasukuni Shrine, told parliament that a mature country would not withhold summit meetings as a way of exerting political pressure.
"I think it is clearly wrong to use the diplomatic card of refusing a meeting in order to achieve a political goal," Abe told parliament. "The fact that we have issues makes it more important for us to continue talks, and that's how mature countries should act, I think," Abe added.
Koizumi has visited Yasukuni five times since taking office in 2001, most recently in October. The visits have sparked an outcry in China, where critics consider Yasukuni a glorification of Japan's wartime aggressions in East Asia.
The shrine honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including several executed World War II war criminals. It also houses a museum that seeks to justify Japan's military invasions of its neighbors in the first half of the 20th century, including that of China.
Beijing has refused to meet with Koizumi since the latest visit, and the two sides have not held a formal summit since 2001, fanning tensions that erupted in anti-Japanese riots in April in several Chinese cities.
But Abe, who has visited Yasukuni himself and supports Koizumi's visits, said Tokyo values its ties with China. "There were many incidents in the past two years, but no single Japanese ever burned a Chinese flag," he said. "We will welcome and be friendly with the Chinese people as we always have been, and that is a stance we should be proud of."
Koizumi denies that the visits signal his support for militarism, saying instead that he prays for peace and the souls of the war dead when he worships there, reports the AP. N.U.