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China delays Japan trip after shrine visit

China protest
Koizumi's visit to the shrine drew fierce protests from China and South Korea  

TOKYO, China -- China has responded to the latest war shrine visit by Japan's leader by postponing a visit from Japan's defense minister.

China has said it will also postpone a naval vessel visit to Japan next month to protest against Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's shrine move, which has irked its Asian neighbors.

China's Foreign Ministry told Japanese officials in Beijing that Defense Minister Gen Nakatani's trip, scheduled to take place from Saturday, has been delayed, Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday.

Japanese Foreign Ministry and Defense Agency officials said they were unaware of the report and were checking it.

Koizumi made a surprise and controversial visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Sunday in an apparent effort to limit diplomatic fallout by avoiding the August 15 anniversary of Japan's World War Two surrender.

But Koizumi's visit to the shrine -- which honors convicted war criminals as well as other Japanese war dead -- has sparked anger among Asian nations who suffered under Tokyo's military aggression.

CNN's Lisa Rose Weaver has more on China's dismay over Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to a WWII shrine. (April 23)

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Dozens of Japanese politicians also visited the shrine on Tuesday.

'Bad move'

The Japan trip delay comes in the wake of China's foreign ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, saying on Tuesday that the shrine visit was sure to sour ties between the two nations.

"The shrine visit has badly hurt Chinese people's feelings as well as damaged bilateral political relations," China's state-run Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying at Tuesday's regular press conference.

"The attitude of the Chinese government is very clear on this issue. We think this is a bad move because it hurts Chinese people's feelings and also hurts Sino-Japanese relations. We think this move will not win the trust of Asia and the world."

Controversy over the shrine visit could jeopardize a series of other high-level exchanges between China and Japan this year, analysts have said.

As a gesture of goodwill, both governments have planned elaborate visits and festivals to mark the 30th anniversary of the normalization of ties between them.

Iron out hiccups

Koizumi shrine
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has visited the controversial Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo twice in the last year  

A top adviser to President Jiang Zemin, Zeng Qinghong is due to be in Japan on Thursday with a group of provincial leaders.

A frequent visitor to Japan, Zeng is a close friend of Hiromu Nonaka, known as the "shadow shogun" and kingmaker in Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Diplomatic analysts in Beijing and Tokyo said Zeng and Nonaka had for the past few years been responsible for ironing out a series of hiccups in bilateral relations.

The analysts said Jiang and Zeng hoped that given Beijing's difficulties with the U.S. over the Taiwan issue, China's bargaining chips vis--vis Washington might improve if it could boost ties with Tokyo.

Another up-and-coming Chinese leader, Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao is due to call on Japan shortly.

It is understood that both Beijing and Tokyo want the Japanese Emperor to visit China later this year, but the important tour could be endangered if anti-Japanese feelings among the populace continue to grow.

Koizumi has said his latest visit was a prayer for peace and pledged to work to boost friendly ties with China and soccer World Cup co-host South Korea after the two countries called in Tokyo's ambassadors to protest at his visit to the shrine.

CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam contributed to this report




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