NEWS > Taiwan/HK
Ex-Taiwanese leader Lee visits Tokyo war shrine
2007-06-07 02:36:25 SINA English

Former Taiwan "President" Lee Teng-hui (R) leaves the Yasukuni shrine in central Tokyo, Japan, Thursday June 7, 2007. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

TOKYO, Jun 7 -- A former president of Taiwan, Lee Teng-hui, visited a Tokyo war shrine Thursday to pray for his brother enshrined there, a building that is frequently viewed as a symbol of Japan's militaristic past by many Asian nations.

The name of Lee's elder brother is written on a list of the dead at Yasukuni Shrine. It honors 2.5 million war dead, including Japanese World War II leaders executed for their war crimes and tens of thousands of Koreans and Taiwanese drafted into the Japanese military during Japan's colonial rule.

Lee arrived in Japan last week for an 11-day cultural visit. The 84-year-old former Taiwanese president has been a strong critic of Beijing, which claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan more than five decades after the island split from the mainland during a civil war.

On Wednesday, China slammed Lee for using his visit to push for Taiwanese independence, and for trying to undermine China-Japan relations.

China in late May expressed "strong dissatisfaction" toward Japan for allowing Lee's visit. Japan maintains official diplomatic relations with Beijing, but not with Taiwan.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stressed that Lee's visit is private and that he did not expect it to hurt Tokyo's relations with Beijing.

Yasukuni Shrine is a major source of contention between China and Japan, along with disputes over exploration of underwater gas and interpretations of wartime history.

But Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's Japan visit in April helped ease their differences.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's six visits to Yasukuni during his 2001-2006 leadership enraged China and South Korea, the two main victims of Japanese aggression in the first half of the 20th century, prompting them to reject summits with Koizumi.


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