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Home >> China
UPDATED: 11:21, June 29, 2005
Chinese FM spokesman on Japanese emperor's visit to Korean war dead memorial
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China on Tuesday considered Japanese Emperor Akihito's visit to a Korean war dead memorial a sign that Japan treats history issue in a correct way.

"We take note of related reports. The arrangement made by the Japanese side is presumed to be based on its correct understanding about history," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao on Tuesday.

Akihito left for Saipan of Northern Mariana Islands on Monday to pay homage to those killed there in a bloody battle during World War II. It is reported that Akihito made a surprise visit on Tuesday to a Korean war dead memorial.

China requires the Japanese side to take seriously the feelings of peoples from China and other Asian countries, handle properly issues concerned and follow its commitments to drawing lessons from and respecting history, Liu said.

About 1,000 Koreans were killed at the Saipan Island and nearby islands in the World War II.

Saipan, considered vital to Japan's homeland defense during the World War II, witnessed a fierce fighting from June 15 to July 9, 1944. More than 40,000 Japanese soldiers and some 10,000 Japanese civilians on the island were killed, while about 5,000 US soldiers were killed in the battle.

Emperor honours Korean war dead

In a gesture of reconciliation, Japanese Emperor Akihito made a surprise visit Tuesday to a Korean war dead memorial during a pilgrimage to the island of Saipan where a decisive World War II battle was fought.

Akihito, on his first overseas trip to honour war dead, also bowed his head in silent prayer at two rocky heights where Japanese soldiers and civilians leapt to their deaths.

The emperor's journey coincides with a chill in Japan's ties with China and the Republic of Korea, still tormented by the wartime past 60 years after the end of the conflict.

Tuesday's visit was the first time the Japanese emperor had paid respects at a Korean war memorial.

At the brief, unannounced stop, Akihito son of the late Emperor Hirohito in whose name Japanese fought and died and Empress Michiko bowed deeply before the Korean Peace Memorial.

"We are excited and everybody is very happy," Jin Koo-cho, director of the Korean Association of Saipan, said after learning of the royal couple's visit to the cenotaph.

"We really hope the Japanese emperor's visit to our Korean memorial can make relations between Korea and Japan better," he added.

In Seoul, Yang Soon-im, head of the Association for the Pacific War Victims, said: "We understand the Japanese king did not say anything at the memorial, but we take this as an expression of sincere apology from his heart.

"It is fortunate, although belated. Now it's time for the Japanese Government and public to begin resolving the problems one by one," she added.

About 1,000 Korean labourers were brought to the island against their will during the 1930s, joining thousands of Japanese workers relocated there after World War I.

Most Koreans left on the island when World War II ended were repatriated to the Korean Peninsula, and the 2,500 Koreans now living on Saipan mostly came during the past 30 years.

South Korean activists and a minority of local Korean residents had threatened protests against the emperor's visit, while Akihito's gesture could annoy Japanese nationalists.

Despite public apologies by Japan's leaders and past words of regret from Akihito himself, many in Asian countries feel Tokyo has not owned up to its wartime atrocities in Asia.

Seoul and Beijing are also outraged over Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, seen by critics as a symbol of past Japanese militarism.

Source: Xinhua/China Daily

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