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Japanese Prime Minister Apologizes for Country's WWII Aggression Against Asian Neighbors

  • Robert Raffaele

Japan's prime minister has expressed "deep remorse" over his country's World War II 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. Even as Mr. Koizumi apologized, Japanese lawmakers engaged in a pilgrimage that has angered many Chinese.

Junichiro Koizumi, left, shakes hands with Hu Jintao, in Jakarta, Saturday
Mr. 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.

"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 II, 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," says Junichiro Koizumi.

Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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.

Mr. Koizumi has made annual visits to the shrine, since his election in 2001.

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