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China slams Japan for ex-PM's Taiwan trip

Written by: Staff
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BEIJING, Nov 23 (Reuters) China slammed Japan today for allowing former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori to visit Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing claims as a renegade province.

Mori, prime minister from 2000 to 2001, left Taiwan today after a three-day visit at Taiwan's invitation to meet President Chen Shui-bian and former President Lee Teng-hui, both loathed by China for their independence leanings.

By allowing the trip, Japan has ignored China's ''grave concerns'', Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

''The former prime minister also met with Chen Shui-bian and even received a medal of honour. It has damaged China's national interests,'' Jiang told a regular news conference.

''We express strong dissatisfaction and regret over this,'' Jiang said. ''Japan should ... not engage in political exchanges in any forms with Taiwan independence forces.'' Chen gave Mori a medal to thank him for his role in ''promoting Japan-Taiwan relations''. A similar visit to Taiwan by Mori in 2003 was also met with protest by China.

Taiwan has been split from China since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 but still styles itself as the Republic of China.

Both Chen's Democratic Progressive Party and Lee favour formal independence, which China says would trigger war.

China-Japan relations have been strained since Mori's successor, Junichiro Koizumi, took office, with issues ranging from Tokyo's World War Two atrocities to present-day rivalry for resources and regional influence.

There has been a thaw since new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ice-breaking visit to Beijing last month, but China is still wary of Japan's close ties with Taiwan, a former Japanese colony.

REUTERS AB BS1531

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