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Abe criticizes S. Korea for cutting dialogue over Yasukuni row+
[January 16, 2006]

Abe criticizes S. Korea for cutting dialogue over Yasukuni row+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)TOKYO, Jan. 17_(Kyodo) _ Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe criticized South Korea on Tuesday for cutting off dialogue with Japan over the issue of Japanese officials' visits to Tokyo's war-related Yasukuni Shrine.

"Our view is that it is wrong to refuse discussions on all other issues because of one particular issue," Abe said at a news conference. "It is rather important to have lengthy talks in case a political issue arises as we are neighbors. Japan is always ready for talks."

Abe made the comments after South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Ban Ki Moon said Monday in Seoul that a bilateral summit is unlikely until the row over Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Yasukuni visits is resolved.

Ban also denied a summit is possible if Koizumi's successor continues paying homage at the shrine after the premier leaves office, expected in September.

Abe is widely regarded as a leading candidate to succeed Koizumi and has suggested he will continue visiting the shrine after taking power.

Koizumi has visited the Shinto shrine, where convicted war criminals are honored along with the war dead, once a year since taking office in April 2001. South Korea and other Asian countries Japan invaded and occupied before and during World War II regard the shrine as symbolic of unrepentant Japanese militarism.

Speaking to reporters separately, Koizumi reiterated his criticism of South Korea, saying, "I cannot understand why they refuse talks because of a gap on one issue." Whether to rearrange the summit is up to South Korea, Koizumi said.

"We think South Korea is an important neighbor and would hold talks any time," he said. "What I'm saying is that exchanges and dialogue are needed despite one or two conflicts of opinion."

In protest against Koizumi's latest Yasukuni visit last October, South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun canceled a visit to Japan in December.

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