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China's Ambassador Wants Urgent Fix for Chilly Ties with Japan

China's Ambassador to Japan is calling for quick action to resolve the chilly diplomatic relationship between the two Asian economic powerhouses. The comment came at a rare news conference for international media by Beijing's senior diplomat in the region.

Chinese Ambassador Wang Yi said Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to a controversial war shrine are "pouring salt on an open wound", and are the single biggest challenge to improving ties between Beijing and Tokyo.

Speaking in Japanese, Ambassador Wang termed the diplomatic status quo between China and Japan unacceptable. Mr. Wang, who is also a vice foreign minister, said the most urgent challenge for Japan and China is to improve relations as soon as possible, and the present situation cannot simply be ignored.

Mr. Wang called on the Japanese government to stop the prime minister's visits to the war shrine.

China has repeatedly objected to visits by Japanese leaders to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead, including civilian and military leaders convicted of war crimes following the Pacific War.

Mr. Koizumi, who has made annual pilgrimages to the central Tokyo shrine, says he goes there to pray for world peace and pay his respects to those who sacrificed their lives for the country.

Ambassador Wang says because China was the biggest victim of Japan's colonial era and wartime aggression, the shrine visits are seen as especially provocative by the Chinese people.

Mr. Wang also called for changes of attitudes among the Japanese people and the country's media towards China. The Chinese ambassador says it is his impression the Japanese view China more severely than people in other countries do.

Although trade relations between Japan and China continue to improve, diplomatic ties are at their lowest point in decades due to differing interpretations of wartime history and territorial disputes.