Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has apologised for the suffering caused by his country’s past militarism. It echoed previous apologies by Japanese leaders, but unusually it happened at a major international event. Koizumi and Chinese President Hu Jintao could meet on the sidelines of the two-day summit of Asian and African leaders in Indonesia, marking the 50th anniversary of the Bandung Conference. Relations between Japan and China are at their worst in decades.
In recent weeks tens of thousands of Chinese have taken part in demonstrations. They have denounced new Japanese history textbooks, which allegedly whitewash Japan’s atrocities during the Second World War. They have also called for Tokyo to be denied a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Meanwhile more than 160 Japanese deputies or their representatives have visited the controversial Yasukuni shrine to Japan’s war dead. Ties with China chilled after Koizumi took office in 2001 and began annual visits to Yasukuni.