Japan's leader enjoys Sibelius

Junichiro Koizumi indulged his love for classical music, joked with fellow leaders and was snubbed by his angry neighbors during his last overseas tour as Japan's prime minister.

The Japanese leader with the trademark wavy, silver hairdo steps down at the end of this month after guiding the world's second-biggest economy for more than five years. He spent the past few days in Finland, hobnobbing with other heads of state at the 38-nation Asia-Europe Meeting, which ended Monday.

But his relations with his counterparts from China and South Korea continued to be as frigid as Finland in February. The Chinese and Koreans refused to have bilateral meetings with Koizumi because they were still miffed at him for visiting the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo. The site honors Japan's war dead, including convicted war criminals.

Koizumi has said that by going to the shrine, he mourns all the victims of war. He insists it is a private affair that should not concern other nations. He also says it is a shame China and Japan have allowed a single issue to block talks with him.

"I'm sure they will regret in the days ahead that they chose the wrong way," Koizumi said at a news conference after the two-day summit.

Being shunned by its neighbors has put Japan in an awkward spot, and Japanese officials were quick to announce during the first day of the summit that Koizumi had a few minutes of chitchat with the Chinese and Koreans on the sidelines Sunday.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told reporters that Koizumi approached Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and they only exchanged a brief "hello."

Koizumi provided few details at the summit about his plans after he leaves office Sept. 30. His successor has not yet been selected, reports AP.

"I shall resign at the end of the month," he said. "Beyond that I'd like to say that I'd like to remain active in the political domain. For some time after I leave, I'd like to stay quiet to recharge myself."

A few of the leaders at the meeting in Finland gave Koizumi some advice. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi told him to spend more time relaxing by listening to operas.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra joked that he wants to create a global political group called the "Enjoy Your Life Party" and have Koizumi head the organization.

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