VARIOUS: South Korea and China protest Japan PM's visit to a controversial war shrine.
- Title: VARIOUS: South Korea and China protest Japan PM's visit to a controversial war shrine.
- Date: 16th August 2006
- Summary: WIDE OF STREET
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- Story Text: Activists held demonstrations as South Korea and China reacted angrily to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine for the war dead on Tuesday (August 15).
In Seoul, about 2,000 protestors gathered before the closed gates of the Japanese embassy, where they burned a photo of the shrine and decapitated an effigy of Koizumi.
Small scuffles broke out when the protestors, mainly from civic groups, tried to make their way into the embassy to give the ambassador a message.
"We are holding a protest to show how angry the South Korean public is while Koizumi visited the Yasukuni Shrine," said Yang Soon-im, Chairman of the Association of Pacific War Victims and Bereaved Families said.
The Shinto shrine honours Japanese World War Two leaders convicted as war criminals along with 2.5 million war dead and is considered a symbol of Japan's past militarism by some Asian countries.
The anniversary of Japan's World War Two surrender is seen as the day South Korea was liberated from Japan and President Roh Moo-hyun, at a ceremony to mark 61 years of freedom, said Koizumi's visit was disrespectful and Japan had far to go before it could change its pacifist constitution.
"It may be going too far to start an argument over the pacifist constitution as a whole. But Japan has work to do before it amends its constitution," President Roh said during the ceremony held in Seoul.
"It must prove clearly that it has no intention of repeating the past by backing up its repeated apologies with actions," he added.
Japan's ruling and opposition parities are seeking to revise the pacifist constitution, whose Article Nine prohibits maintaining a military and has been interpreted as allowing armed forces solely for self defence.
South Korea and China consider the visits to the Yasukuni shrine as symbolic of Japan's refusal to come to terms with its history of colonisation of the region which ended with the end of World War Two.
Ties between South Korea and Japan have turned increasingly chilly and Roh declared "diplomatic war" against Tokyo last year in a dispute over desolate islands claimed by the two neighbours and over Japanese leaders' visits to the Tokyo shrine.
Japan's ruling and opposition parties are seeking to revise the pacifist constitution, whose Article Nine prohibits maintaining a military and has been interpreted as allowing armed forces solely for self defence.
Japan's ambassador's to both Seoul and Beijing were summoned as the two countries expressed their condemnation of the visit.
China's Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing summoned Japanese Ambassador Yuji Miyamoto to express a stern condemnation of Koizumi's visit.
"Prime Minister Koizumi insisted on visiting Yasukuni Shrine which honors those war criminals in disregard of the strong opposition from the international community, the neighbouring Asian countries and Japanese people. I express strong protest and condemnation on behalf of the Chinese people", he said.
Koizumi has visited the shrine every year as prime minister, but this year he fulfilled a five year old election promise to go on the anniversary of Japan's World War Two surrender.
Last year, a push by Japan to join the United Nations Security Council sparked sometimes violent street protests against Japan in cities across China.
Millions of Chinese also signed an on-line petition saying Tokyo's failure to atone for wartime atrocities disqualified it from a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Several dozen Chinese protesters gathered at the Japanese embassy in Beijing while people on the streets also expressed their anger at Koizumi's visit.
Others blamed its own government for not doing more and taking a tougher stand towards Japan.
"I think the protest of ordinary people is far from enough. The Chinese government should have done more", added student Guo Siyuan.
Koizumi is due to step down in September and Beijing officials hold out some hope that his likely successor -- Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe -- may help calm the two countries' volatile relations.
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- Embargoed:31st August 2006 13:00