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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

QUICK EXIT CALLED RUDE

Wu cancels Koizumi meeting, flies home


By REIJI YOSHIDA and KANAKO TAKAHARA
Staff writers

In a rare move that could aggravate already strained Sino-Japanese relations, Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi abruptly canceled a meeting Monday with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and left for Beijing because of "urgent domestic official duties."

Wu, who was slated to stay until Tuesday, left Tokyo in the afternoon following a meeting with Lower House Speaker Yohei Kono and a luncheon with Japan Business Federation officials, including its chairman, Hiroshi Okuda, who is also chairman of Toyota Motor Corp.

Speculation immediately grew that China may have canceled the meeting because of Koizumi's remark last week that he may go ahead with another contentious visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines the nation's war dead as well as 14 class-A war criminals.

On May 16, Koizumi told a Diet session he will decide when to visit Yasukuni "in an appropriate manner." He also urged other parts of Asia "not to interfere" with Japan's internal affairs by denouncing his Yasukuni visits.

"I have no idea," Koizumi told reporters when asked why Wu suddenly canceled her meeting with him.

"If she doesn't want to see me, she wouldn't have to see me. I'd be willing to see her anytime, if she wants," Koizumi said at the Prime Minister's Official Residence.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said the Chinese delegation in Tokyo told Japan in the morning that Wu, following an order from Beijing, would have to return in the afternoon because of "urgent domestic official duties."

China provided no further explanation, Hosoda told reporters in the morning, calling the sudden cancellation "unusual."

"That had been a good chance (for dialogue)," Hosoda said. "It's regrettable."

Mutual visits of top government leaders between Japan and China have been on hold mainly due to Koizumi's annual calls at Yasukuni. Japanese officials had hoped the visit by one of Beijing's top government officials and her anticipated meeting with Koizumi would pave the way for resumed mutual top-level visits.

Government officials were discontented with the sudden cancellation, calling it diplomatically rude behavior.

"How could (the Chinese side) cancel the meeting with the nation's prime minister without justifiable reason?" said a top Foreign Ministry official. "They should keep to the minimum criteria of diplomatic manners."

Although the official said Tokyo will not seek further explanation, he said the Chinese side should explain why it canceled the meeting.

Despite her "urgent duties" at home, Wu has not canceled her visit to Mongolia from Tuesday, the official added.

"China's official stance is that it did not cancel the meeting because of the Yasukuni issue," another senior Foreign Ministry official said. "But it is rude for a lower-ranking official to cancel a meeting with a nation's prime minister without a justifiable reason."

Another ministry official said he suspects China had planned to cancel the meeting all along -- a remark reflecting the worsening relations between Japan and China.

It is also suspected that Beijing may be using the cancellation to pressure Koizumi to stop his contentious visit to the Yasukuni Shrine.

Asked about that possibility, Koizumi said such tactics "would not work".

Asked if he feels that Beijing is now making light of Koizumi, he only repeated, "I don't know."

"We arranged the schedule because they (the Chinese side) had said they wanted to see me badly," Koizumi said. "(I) wonder if (they) were infected with the (Japanese) opposition parties' boycotting of (Diet) sessions," he said provoking laughters from reporters. "I don't know."

Wu, who had been expected to ease tensions with Japan, did not touch on her sudden cancellation during a Monday morning speech in Tokyo.



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The Japan Times

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