- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mail call

Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato is trying to downplay a letter from a congressional leader who disapproves of visits by Japan’s prime minister to a Tokyo shrine where Japanese war criminals are honored among the dead from World War II.

“It was not necessarily characterized as a letter of protest,” Mr. Kato told reporters who questioned him this week about the communication from Rep. Henry J. Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

The ambassador said he forwarded the letter to Tokyo.

Mr. Hyde, Illinois Republican, was upset over the repeated visits by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the Yasukuni Shrine. His latest visit was Oct. 20.

The shrine, built in 1869, is dedicated to the spirits of 2.5 million people who died in Japan’s civil and foreign wars, but it also commemorates thousands convicted of crimes against humanity in World War II, including Japanese wartime leader Hideki Tojo.

Mr. Hyde, who joined the Navy in 1944 and served in the Pacific, said, “The Yasukuni Shrine is also dedicated to war criminals in World War II. I feel uncomfortable with Japanese government officials paying repeated visits to the shrine.”

He noted that the shrine has become a “symbol of unresolved disputes over the war atrocities during World War II and of militarism demonstrated in the Pacific War.”

Japan on offense

Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato took the offensive this week after learning the Senate is considering tough sanctions against his country unless it lifts its ban on U.S. beef.

“It’s not a productive move,” he said, as the Japanese Embassy sent out e-mails to reporters denouncing the Senate bill.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, chairman of the Agriculture Committee, complained that he has lost patience with the “foot-dragging” of the Japanese government and its beef ban imposed nearly two years ago after an outbreak of mad cow disease in the United States.

The Georgia Republican said medical specialists on Japan’s Food Safety Commission have determined the safety of American beef from cattle younger than 21 months. Japan was the largest importer of U.S. beef.

“I, for one, have lost patience with the obvious foot-dragging of the Japanese bureaucracy,” Mr. Chambliss said.

Japanese imports would face punitive tariffs worth more than $3 billion annually by the end of this year under the bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, and Sen.Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat. The bill has attracted support from 18 other senators.

Mr. Kato appealed to the Senate for more time for the full Food Safety Commission to reach a decision.

“It is not a trade issue,” he said. “It is a matter of scientifically certifying food safety.”

In it statement, the embassy added that the ban could be lifted soon.

“The domestic procedures in Japan necessary to reopen its market to U.S. beef are in the last stage,” the embassy said.

“A threat of retaliation is not helpful in solving the problem based on pure science.”

Mr. Kato and Mr. Chambliss are expected to meet on Monday to discuss the bill.

Korea online

The South Korean Embassy yesterday opened a Web site designed to showcase the latest news from Seoul, along with cultural features and an interactive function to allow “contributions from citizen reporters.”

The Dynamic-Korea.com site “is an exciting new online newspaper, treating contemporary Korean politics, economics and diplomacy and also introducing articles on Korean society, economics and diplomacy,” the embassy said.

“Content will not be limited to articles but will include songs, movies and photographs provided by citizen journalists.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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