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Koizumi Apologizes for Japan's Colonial Past


Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's apology before the Asian-African Summit in Indonesia is being viewed at home as nothing overly significant. His remarks on Japan's early-20th Century actions are seen as echoing previous Japanese statements while, at the same time, attempting to soothe relations with China.

Mr. Koizumi's words on Friday were nothing new from the lips of a Japanese prime minister. As Japanese officials noted, his comments echoed those of a predecessor, the Socialist Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who in 1995 officially apologized for Japan's colonization of other Asian countries and its wrongdoing during the first half of the 20th Century.

However, the expression of "deep remorse" by Mr. Koizumi in Jakarta before officials of more than 100 Asian and African countries - including Chinese President Hu Jintao - marked the first time in 14 years a Japanese leader has made such an apology in a speech to an international gathering.

Mr. Koizumi's comments are widely viewed as a peace offering to China. Japanese government officials are now waiting to see if the remarks will be carried by the Chinese media, contending that apologies by Japanese leaders have not been reported in China in the past.

A recent spate of anti-Japanese demonstrations in China was sparked by the approval in Japan of textbooks seen as glossing over Japan's colonial-era and World War II atrocities.

Chinese officials have said the protests also stemmed from opposition to Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, which China opposes.

A third irritant in the Sino-Japanese relationship has been Mr. Koizumi's annual pilgrimage to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead, including convicted war criminals.

Even as Mr. Koizumi was preparing to deliver his remarks in Indonesia, a delegation of 80 Japanese members of Parliament paid their respects at the shrine.

China immediately expressed "strong dissatisfaction" over Friday's visit. The reaction, however, was worded mildly, and called for better relations between the two countries.

Japanese officials are hoping that conciliatory words and actions this week by both Tokyo and Beijing will lead to a meeting in Jakarta Saturday between Mr. Koizumi and Chinese President Hu.

Following his speech in Jakarta, Mr. Koizumi indicated to reporters that the meeting would take place on Saturday as hoped.

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