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Japanese Prime Minister Apologies for War Crimes

Japan's prime minister has expressed "deep remorse" over his country's World War Two aggression against Asian neighbors.

His comments are the latest effort by Japan to defuse tensions with China. However, a Chinese official dismissed the remarks, saying "actions are more important" than words.

Junichiro Koizumi addresses leaders at Asia-Africa summit in Indonesia, Friday
Mister Koizumi used a speech at the Asia-Africa summit in Jakarta to offer an apology for what he called the "tremendous damage" Japan inflicted upon its Asian neighbors during the 1930s and ‘40s.

The prime minister told the summit audience, "Japan squarely faces these facts of history in a spirit of humility and with a feeling of deep remorse and heartfelt apology always engraved in mind. Japan has resolutely maintained, consistently since the end of World War Two, never turning into a military power, but an economic power -- its principal of resolving all matters by peaceful means without recourse to use of force."

Mister Koizumi's apology follows weeks of escalating Japanese-Chinese tensions, including violent anti-Japanese protests in China.

Japan has demanded an apology for damages to its embassy and consulates, but Beijing has blamed Tokyo for the unrest. Those demonstrations were fueled by Tokyo's approval of a new history textbook, which critics say ignores or rewrites Japan's wartime offenses.

The protesters have also denounced Tokyo's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nation's Security Council.

Japan's Kyodo news agency reported Mister Koizumi was seeking a one-on-one meeting Saturday with Chinese President Hu Jianto, on the sidelines of the Jakarta summit. But Friday, China said it was still considering that proposal.

Just two hours before Mister Koizumi's speech, about 80 Japanese parliament members visited a shrine that has been a source of friction between Beijing and Tokyo. The Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo honors Japan's war dead, including executed war criminals. The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed "strong dissatisfaction" with the lawmakers' trip to the shrine. Mister Koizumi has made annual visits to the shrine, since his election in 2001.