Japanese and S. Korean Officials Clash Over Visit, Agree On Joint History Project

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Visiting South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Ban Ki Moon on Thursday protested Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine this month, saying it would be difficult for the South Korean president to visit Tokyo by the end of the year.

During a meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo with Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, Ban said: "[South Korean] people are disappointed. They feel offended and the visit isn't internationally understood."

Ban asked Japan to construct a new facility to replace the Tokyo-based Shinto shrine as a memorial to the war dead.

The South Korean minister also said South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun was unlikely to make his planned visit to Japan in December. "Under the circumstances, [Roh's visit] appears to be difficult," Ban said.

Machimura told Ban that the prime minister's visit to the controversial shrine was meant to mourn the war dead and to express Japan's resolution never to wage war again. However, the two ministers failed to find common ground.
Meanwhile, the two ministers agreed to prepare to add new members to a joint study of Japanese-South Korean history formed by historians from both countries, and to hold the first session this year.

Machimura and Ban also agreed to launch a five-year exchange program next year designed to boost friendship between young people from Japan and South Korea.

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