Japan fans warned not to fly naval flag

BEIJING Fri Aug 8, 2008 1:15am EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Japanese fans attending the Beijing Olympics have been advised not to display the country's "rising sun" naval flag for fear of provoking a backlash from Chinese hosts.

The flag is seen by many in Asia as a symbol of Tokyo's wartime militarism.

"We explain in a safety guideline for Japanese tourists coming to see the Olympics that the old military flag may cause trouble," Norio Saito, a Beijing Embassy official told Reuters on Friday.

The "rising sun" flag, with 16 rays extending from a red sun on a white background, was displayed by the Imperial Japanese Navy and is still the emblem of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces, as the current navy is known.

The embassy guideline notes that flags and banners of a political, ethnic or religious nature are banned at Olympic venues and discourages Japanese tourists from showing items that could conjure up bitter memories of the wartime past, which still haunt Sino-Japanese ties six decades later.

(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)

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