South Korean Tells Japan's Leader to Stop Visiting Shrine

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President Roh Moo Hyun of South Korea urged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan to stop visiting a nationalistic Japanese war memorial in a meeting here between the leaders on Friday, saying the visits raised fears of a revival of Japanese militarism.

The bilateral talks, which took place on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting, took place just a month after Mr. Koizumi's latest trip to the Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial that commemorates Japan's war dead, including high-ranking war criminals from World War II. The visit aggravated Japan's already strained relations with its Asian neighbors.

Mr. Koizumi defended his visits to the shrine, saying that he prayed for peace there. But Japan has found itself continually confronted at the summit meeting here over its handling of its wartime conduct, and has been diplomatically shunned by its neighbors in a region where China's influence is growing rapidly.

Because of Mr. Koizumi's latest visit to the shrine, China's president, Hu Jintao, rejected Mr. Koizumi's request for a meeting here. Mr. Roh agreed to one, but Seoul pointedly downgraded Friday's talks as a "courtesy meeting" with the South Korean host of the summit meeting. Also, Mr. Roh refused to say Friday whether he would go through with a scheduled visit to Japan next month.

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