UPDATED: 08:15, August 15, 2006
Koizumi visits war criminals-honoring Yasukuni Shrine
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, ignoring criticism from home and abroad, visited the war criminals-honoring Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo early Tuesday morning.
Koizumi, in a tailcoat, arrived at the shrine at around 7:40 a.m. local time Tuesday (2240 GMT Monday). He then bowed in the main hall of the shrine.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, in a statement, lodged a strong protest against Tuesday's visit by Koizumi to the shrine, which has been regarded as a symbol of the past Japanese militarism.
Koizumi has visited the shrine for five consecutive years since he took office in April 2001. But Tuesday's visit was the first he had paid on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War Two.
Koizumi, who last visited the shrine on October 17, 2005, is expected to step down as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) as well as premier in September.
The Yasukuni Shrine, established in 1869 under Emperor Meiji, honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead including 14 class-A war criminals responsible for the most atrocious crimes during Japan's war of aggression against its Asian neighbors.
In 1978, 14 class-A war criminals, including wartime prime minister Hideki Tojo, were listed as the enshrined at the Yasukuni Shrine.
Koizumi's visits to the shrine have been denounced by countries which suffered Japan's brutal aggression before and during World War II.
Koizumi's previous visits have chilled Japan's relations with neighboring China and South Korea, making the issue the major stumbling block in the smooth development of relations with those countries.
The visits also drew criticism from the public and news media in Japan. According to a recent opinion poll conducted by Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, 49 percent of the respondents are opposed to Koizumi's shrine visit as compared with 43 percent in favor.
Even in the United States, Koizumi's shrine visits have come under fire.
U.S. House of Representatives Committee on International Relations Chairman Henry J. Hyde had in April sent a letter to the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, demanding Koizumi not be invited for a speech at Congress during his June visit to the United States, unless Tokyo pledged the Japanese leader would not pay any Shrine visit after returning home.
Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The People's Republic of China
Today, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid another visit to the Yasukuni Shrine where the Japanese class-A criminals of WWII are remembered. The Chinese Government hereby lodges a strong protest against this act that gravely offends the people in countries victimized by the war of aggression launched by Japanese militarists and undermines the political foundation of China-Japan relations.
The top Japanese WWII criminals who are remembered in the Yasukuni Shrine planned and launched Japanese militarist aggressions and were responsible for committing untold atrocities in Asia and the world in modern history. By insisting on paying homage to the Yasukuni Shrine where these war criminals are remembered in disregard of the concern and opposition from the international community, Japan's Asian neighbors and the people in Japan, Prime Minister Koizumi is challenging international justice and trampling human conscience.
China was the biggest victim of the war of aggression launched by Japanese militarists; the Chinese people suffered enormously from Japan's War of Aggression against China. To see this part of history for what it was and handle it accordingly is the political foundation for the resumption and growth of China-Japan relations in the post-War period. It is also an important prerequisite for China and Japan to pursue a common future. Prime Minister Koizumi has repeatedly offended the Chinese people over the history issue. In doing so, he not only has cost Japan's credibility internationally, but will also lose faith of the Japanese people and damage Japan's national image and interests.
The sound growth of China-Japan relations serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples and will promote peace and stability in Asia and beyond. The Chinese Government and people will continue to work untiringly with all Japanese statesmen and people who value and are committed to China-Japan friendship on the basis of the three political documents and acting in line with the spirit of "drawing lessons from history for the benefit of future relations" for the peaceful co-existence, enduring friendship, mutual benefits and common development of our two countries. We are confident that the Japanese people, with vision and foresight, will follow the trend of history, work to remove the political obstacle and help put China-Japan relations back on the track of normal growth at an early date.