South Korea rules out summit with Japan

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun will not hold a summit with Japan 's prime minister unless Junichiro Koizumi promises not to visit a shrine that honors war criminals, Roh's spokesman said Friday. "A summit will be held only when Koizumi says he will not visit the Yasukuni shrine," Kim Man-soo told The Associated Press.

Roh and Koizumi have met twice since 2004 under what officials dubbed a "shuttle summit." Roh had been scheduled to visit Japan in December but canceled the trip due to Koizumi's visit to the shrine, which honors Japan 's 2.5 million war dead, including convicted World War II criminals.

In December, South Korea also canceled a customary meeting with Japan on the sidelines of a regional summita, snub meant to protest Koizumi's shrine visit in October. Despite the row, the two countries held a senior level "strategic dialogue" early this month in Japan to discuss issues of mutual interest, including North Korea 's nuclear weapons program.

South Korea and Japan are key trade partners and both are parties to talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Other participants include the United States , China and Russia . However, relations between the two neighbors have been strained in recent years over several issues, including Koizumi's repeated visits to the shrine and Japanese school history textbooks that critics say whitewash Japan 's wartime atrocities.

South Korea, which was under Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945, views the annual visits as a sign that Japan hasn't truly repented for its wartime past, despite numerous apologies by its leaders. China , which also suffered under Japan 's wartime atrocities, has repeatedly called on Koizumi to stop visiting the shrine. Koizumi defends his visits to the shrine, contending that a country's leader has the right to express respect to the nation's war dead and that his visits merely show his resolve that Japan should never wage war again, reports the AP.


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