China's ambassador to Germany has denied that Beijing proposed a visit by President Xi Jinping to a second world war memorial in Berlin during his tour of Europe later this month.
Reuters had reported, citing unnamed diplomatic sources, that Beijing proposed having Xi visit the Holocaust memorial in the German capital to highlight the nation's atonement for its wartime past. The aim was to contrast Germany's record with Japan's, the report said.
Ambassador Shi Mingde told reporters on the sidelines of a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference meeting yesterday in Beijing the government had never discussed with Germany Xi visiting the Holocaust memorial. The president's itinerary was still being finalised, he said.
"We have never raised such an idea," Shi said. "Such reports are not in line with the facts."
Shi said Xi and German leaders would discuss "international and regional issues of mutual concern", without giving specific details.
The Reuters report said Germany rejected the idea of a visit to the memorial because it did not want to be dragged into a dispute between China and Japan.
Beijing's already tense relations with Tokyo have increasingly worsened since December, when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine dedicated to Japan's war dead, including top war criminals.
Beijing denounced the visit, saying Abe was pushing Japan towards militarism and it has called on Japan to learn from Germany, which has frequently apologised for the suffering of the Holocaust and its wartime aggression.
Japanese politicians have apologised for Japan's record during the second world war, but Beijing says the shrine visits cast doubts on the sincerity of the Japanese government.
Shi said he had discussed with German officials how Berlin and Tokyo handled their wartime past and they had shown understanding of China's position.
"We agreed on how the Germans face their history, which is the basis for their reconciliation with other nations, such as France," he said. "The Germans understand us and have never said they don't want to discuss historical issues with us."
Xi will also visit France, the Netherlands and Brussels later this month. Shi said Xi would discuss China's reforms, the country's stance on major international issues and develop closer ties with Europe during his trip.