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Chinese Leader Strongly Criticizes Japanese PM for War Shrine Visits - 2002-10-28

China's president has told Japan's prime minister Sunday that his visit to a controversial World War II shrine seriously hurt relations between the two nations and should never happen again.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin says Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's two visits to the Yasukuni shrine to Japan's war dead "violate the emotions" of China's 1.3 billion people.

The shrine honors Japan's many war dead, including some war criminals, who fought in China. Mr. Koizumi has made two highly publicized visits there since taking office last year, enraging China and other nations victimized by Japan's aggression and atrocities before and during World War II.

Officials say Mr. Jiang bluntly lectured his Japanese counterpart several times during their private talks on the sidelines of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Mexico, Sunday.

Prime Minister Koizumi says he visited Yasukuni not to pay respects to any particular person, but to express regret over deaths in the war. He says the trips also expressed his determination that war should never happen again.

China says 35 million people died under Japanese occupation. Chinese veterans like Wang De Hou say even the brutal business of war has some rules, and Japan broke all of them in a campaign of arson, rape, and murder. The old soldier, now in his 80's, says there is "no way" to forget, and he says even young Chinese are angry. He says history can't change and the scars will "always be there."

In spite of differences over the past, the two nations say they are cooperating on the threat posed by North Korea's recently disclosed nuclear weapons program.

The United States this month says North Korea admitted it is violating a 1994 agreement to stop developing nuclear weapons, sparking alarm in China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States.

Japan resumes talks aimed at normalizing relations with North Korea on Tuesday in Malaysia, and pledged to seek a peaceful solution to the nuclear weapons issue. China's President Jiang says Beijing is also seeking a peaceful solution and wants a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. China sends North Korea aid and is the isolated nation's sole important ally.