|Germany Hails First Invite to D-Day Ceremonies |
Fri January 2, 2004 11:14 AM ET
By Philip Blenkinsop
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany Friday hailed its first invitation to attend ceremonies for the D-Day landings 60 years ago, when Allied forces stormed ashore in northern France in World War II.
"It is a sign of enormous significance 60 years after the so-called D-Day landing of Allied forces in Normandy that not only the victorious powers, but also the former adversary, should be invited," government spokesman Thomas Steg said.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will be the first German leader to attend a commemoration of the June 1944 D-Day landings after being invited by French President Jacques Chirac.
The ceremony marks the Allied campaign launched at dawn on June 6, 1944, to storm the Normandy beaches at the start of the campaign to drive Nazi forces from France.
Thousands were killed in the operation, but the invasion, led by Americans, British and Canadian troops, hastened the end for Hitler's armies, already reeling before a Soviet onslaught.
France refrained from inviting then Chancellor Helmut Kohl to the high-profile 50th anniversary.
"You will recall the discussions 10 years ago after Germany was not invited," Steg said. "It is a sign that times have really changed."
He said the gesture was a further sign that the post-war era was being consigned to history.
A spokeswoman for Chirac said the invitation reflected a spirit of reconciliation and peace.
Germany was also pleased the other former Allied powers in World War II appeared to welcome Schroeder's presence, he said.
Ties between the German and French leaders have warmed in the past year, affirmed by their joint opposition, along with Russia, to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
A year ago, German MPs visited France for 40th anniversary celebrations of the Elysee Treaty which sealed their post-war reconciliation.
This year's D-Day anniversary will take place shortly after Schroeder's own 60th birthday. Born on April 7, 1944, he was two months old when the Allied landings took place. He never knew his father, who was killed in action in Romania not long after he was born.
|China pans Japan leader's visit to shrine |
By Natalie Obiko Pearson
The Associated Press
TOKYO — Japan's prime minister prayed at a shrine honoring Japan's war dead yesterday, a visit that appeared aimed at shoring up support at home as he prepares to send troops to Iraq but brought quick criticism from China and South Korea.
Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine outrage Asian countries that Japan invaded and brutally occupied last century. They see his tributes there as honoring Japan's militaristic past.
The New Year's Day visit could sour relations with China and South Korea as the three countries — along with the United States — try to rally behind a diplomatic resolution to the standoff over North Korea's nuclear programs.
It also could upset the delicate power balance in Asia, where countries have warily eyed the planned Iraq deployment, Japan's largest overseas dispatch of troops since World War II.
Koizumi said he decided on the visit — which was not previously announced and was his fourth since becoming prime minister in April 2001 — to pray for "Japan's peace and prosperity."
"Japan does not rest solely upon the efforts of people living now ... Japan stands upon the sacrifices of others in the past," he told said.
Yasukuni Shrine honors about 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including executed criminals such as war-era Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.
Koizumi "ignores opposition from the Chinese people and Asian people and obstinately insists on visiting the Yasukuni Shrine," the state-run Xinhua News Agency said. His visit "further harms the political basis for friendly Sino-Japanese relations," it said.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi summoned Japan's charge d'affaires to Beijing to voice "strong indignation" over the visit, Xinhua said.
The surprise visit yesterday was widely viewed as an appeal to conservative voters and lawmakers at a time Koizumi is being battered by criticism that he is rashly placing Japanese lives at risk with the Iraq deployment. Tokyo plans to send about 1,000 noncombat military personnel to repair infrastructure in southern Iraq in the next few months.