SHANGHAI The commander of the Chinese navy will refuse to meet Japanese military officials one-on-one at a regional naval symposium in China this week, a navy spokesman was quoted as saying on Sunday, citing what he called hurtful actions by Japanese leaders.
The decision to snub Japanese officials attending the Western Pacific Naval Symposium in Qingdao on Tuesday and Wednesday comes during a chill in relations between the world's no.2 and no.3 economies, amid a row over a chain of disputed islands in the East China Sea.
In addition to the territorial quarrel, China's ties with Japan have long been poisoned by what Beijing sees as Tokyo's failure to atone for its occupation of parts of China before and during World War Two.
On Sunday the head of Japan's National Public Safety Commission visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which critics including the Chinese government see as a symbol of Tokyo's wartime aggression.
The decision not to hold bilateral meetings between Admiral Wu Shengli and Japanese military visitors was made "in view of the wrong words and deeds by the Japanese leaders ... which have substantially hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and undermined bilateral ties", the official Xinhua news agency quoted Liang Yang, spokesman for the Chinese navy, as saying.
Liang also said Japan was not invited to participate in multi-country maritime exercises after the symposium because of "wrong actions" taken by the Japanese government that have "seriously harmed the feelings of the Chinese people and undermined the China-Japan bilateral ties".
"Under the current circumstances, it is not appropriate to invite ships of Japan's Marine Self Defense Forces (MSDF) to attend relevant activity to mark the founding of the Chinese navy," Xinhua quoted Liang as saying.
Seven ships from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Brunei had arrived in Qingdao on Sunday and would join Chinese ships in an exercise that would include maritime rescue operations, Xinhua said.
China's foreign ministry lodged a protest with Japan on April 12 after a Japanese minister visited the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal after World War Two are honored along with those who died in battle.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)