China rebukes Japan for Yasukuni shrine remarks

Officers visiting Yasukuni Shrine on festival. Yasukuni is a shinto shrine in Chiyoda, Tokyo, which honors people who died in service of Japan.

BEIJING — A Chinese spokesman has rebuked Japanese leaders for repeatedly referring to a controversial war shrine during a visit by Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Wu Yi.

“During Deputy Prime Minister Wu Yi’s visit to Japan, Japanese leaders made remarks on the Yasukuni Shrine issue that are damaging to China-Japan relations. China is extremely dissatisfied with this,” spokesman Kong Quan said in Beijing late Monday, the Mainichi Shimbun reported Tuesday.

Wu cut short her visit Monday and returned to Beijing for “sudden official duty,” aborting a planned meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Chinese President Hu Jintao told members of Japan’s ruling party, visiting Beijing Sunday, that they should stop going to the shrine, which China sees as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.

Koizumi, who is a regular visitor to the Tokyo shrine, last week defended his visits in Parliament, arguing that he undertook them as a private individual, rather than as prime minister.

He has said repeatedly the visits are to honor the millions of Japanese killed in the war and to pray for peace.

Japan’s newspapers Tuesday suggested the Chinese were provoked by Koizumi’s statement that he would continue to visit the shrine.