December 8, 2005

China rules out meeting with Japan, South Korea

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Thursday ruled out a three-way
meeting with Japan and South Korea this year, because of
tensions triggered by Japan's wartime past -- the first time
the meeting hasn't been held in six years.

The trilateral meeting was due to take place as part of a
gathering of Asian leaders in Malaysia on December 14.

The three countries will attend the inaugural meeting of
the East Asian Summit, which grew out of annual meetings
between the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and
China, Japan and South Korea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters
at a news conference in Beijing that the trilateral meeting
would not take place.

"For the reasons known to you all ... there have been no
plans recently to hold such a trilateral meeting," he said.

Japan's ties with Beijing and Seoul have chilled with
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's pilgrimages to the
Yasukuni shrine, which they see as a symbol of past Japanese

A handful of convicted war criminals are honored there
alongside millions of war dead.

Visits by government figures to the shrine are guaranteed
to inflame Japan's neighbors. Older Koreans have bitter
memories of Japan's brutal 1910-1945 colonial rule, while
Chinese have not forgotten its 1931-45 invasion and occupation
of parts of China.

Qin also denounced comments by Japanese Foreign Minister
Taro Aso urging more transparency in the military and
questioned Tokyo's own military intentions.

"It's Japan which needs to explain its recent military
movements, because it has caused great concern for its
neighbors," Qin said.

Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party has formally
adopted a draft of a new constitution that would recognize the
nation's right to maintain a military and play a bigger role in
global security.

The present pacifist constitution was drafted in 1947,
after World War II, and has never been altered.