Japanese PM To Attend Olympic Ceremony In Beijing

TOYAKO, Japan: Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said on Sunday he would attend the Olympic Games in Beijing next month as he dissociated the issue to human rights.

“Here for the first time I will announce officially that I will attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games,” Fukuda said on the eve of hosting the summit of the Group of Eight rich nations in northern Japan.

He was speaking at a joint news conference with US President George W. Bush, who has faced some domestic criticism for agreeing to attend the Beijing Olympics.

Fukuda, who has also faced opposition from conservative lawmakers to heading to Beijing, said that he saw improvements in China.

“I don’t really think we have to link the Olympics to politics,” Fukuda said.

“I think there may be problems with China, but even so they’re now making an effort,” Fukuda said.

Japan has uneasy relations with China, which has frequently criticised Japan over its wartime aggression.

“Japan has also gone through the experience of being criticised for certain behaviour,” Fukuda said. “In reality, we should have humility in asking ourselves if we have the right to make such points to China or others.”

“We wouldn’t want China to be unhappy. We’re neighbours after all and it would be good for Japan if our neighbours were in a sound state,” he said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has notably said that he may stay away from the Olympics due to concerns about China’s treatment of Tibetans.

Sarkozy is expected to announce a decision in Japan after talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, whom Fukuda invited for an extended G8 session.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both said they would not attend the opening session on August 8, but tried to play down the political significance.

Fukuda has been known throughout his career for his efforts to repair relations with China and other Asian nations.

China cut off all high-level contact with Japan during the 2001-2006 premiership of Junichiro Koizumi due to his annual visits to a Tokyo shrine that honours war dead along with Japanese war criminals.

– AFP/so

Channel News Asia

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