China warns of Japanese 'militarist minority'

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The Independent Online


China and South Korea sealed their closer relationship yesterday with a joint attack on Japan's failure to repent fully for its wartime record.

President Jiang Zemin's visit to Seoul, the first trip to South Korea by a Chinese head of state, will thus have succeeded both in unsettling Pyongyang and irritating Tokyo.

Mr Jiang and his South Korean counterpart, Kim Young Sam, extended their meeting by half an hour to discuss the Japanese issue. "Japan should have a correct view of history," Mr Jiang told a joint news conference. "We will correct Japan's bad habits," promised Mr Kim. "We must be vigilant against a Japanese militarist minority," Mr Jiang added.

The scene was set for the joint attack by the resignation on Monday of Takami Eto, a Japanese cabinet minister, who infuriated Seoul last week by claiming Japan "did some good things" during its brutal colonial rule of the Korean peninsula. The row had threatened to cancel a summit meeting between Mr Kim and the Japanese Prime Minister, Tomiichi Murayama, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, starting in Osaka this week.

Japan's war record was not the only point of agreement between the Chinese and South Korean presidents. Both stressed burgeoning trade and investment links that have been cemented since diplomatic relations were established in 1992. Two-way trade is expected to reach $15bn (pounds 9.6bn) this year, so that China is now South Korea's third-largest trading partner. The two countries are to increase co-operation in developing medium-size passenger aircraft, nuclear energy and Russian gas fields.

These growing links are viewed with concern in Pyongyang. China is North Korea's only significant ally, and Mr Jiang's visit will make Pyongyang feel even more isolated. North Korea is already feeling humiliated by having to admit that the country suffers from drastic food shortages and needs supplies of foreign rice.

Meanwhile, China yesterday notched up another post- Tiananmen Square 1989 milestone when the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, became the first Western leader to inspect a division of the People's Liberation Army. Mr Kohl was given an exhibition of Chinese martial arts and tasted a soldier's breakfast at a division outside Peking.

As with all China-related state visits, business was the main focus. German companies have signed $1bn of contracts with Chinese enterprises so far during Mr Kohl's visit, in space technology, shipbuilding, power industry, cars and telecommunications.