August 16, 2006

North Korea slams Koizumi’s Tokyo war shrine visit

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea on Wednesday called a visit
by Japan's prime minister to a Tokyo war shrine "a grave
insult," in its first official reaction to the pilgrimage that
enraged Seoul and Beijing.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Tuesday paid
his respects at Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese World War Two
leaders convicted as war criminals along with 2.5 million war
dead are enshrined.

South Korea and China consider the visits to Yasukuni as
symbolic of Japan's refusal to come to terms with its history
of colonisation and aggression during World War Two.

"The reality goes to clearly prove that Japan is a
cancer-like entity in preserving regional peace," the North's
KCNA news agency said, adding Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni were
"a grave insult and challenge to the peoples of Asian countries
that fell victim to Japan's invasion."

"This is a blatant challenge to the just voices of the
peoples of Asia and the rest of the world and a revelation of
the Japanese ruling quarters' 'political will' to restart
overseas aggression by stepping up the militarisation of the
country," it said.

The North's official media routinely criticises Japan,
which colonised the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Koizumi has said he goes to the shrine to pray for peace.

His pilgrimage was the first by a Japanese prime minister
on the August 15 anniversary of Japan's World War Two surrender
since Yasuhiro Nakasone went there on that emotive date in

On Tuesday, China said Koizumi's shrine visits were
"wrecking the political foundations of China-Japan relations"
and summoned Japan's ambassador to register its protest.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said: "The
Japanese prime minister's visit to the Yasukuni shrine is a
total disrespect for the Korean government and people,
particularly on our independence day and the day of the end
(of) World War Two."