Thu, Nov 30, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Tokyo, Beijing resume defense dialogue

AFP , TOKYO

Japan's defense chief yesterday met a top Chinese military official, resuming defense dialogue after a three-year break amid regional concern over North Korea.

The talks are the latest bid by China and Japan to repair relations badly strained under former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, who stepped down in September.

Major General Zhang Qinsheng (章沁生), assistant chief of general staff of the People's Liberation Army, paid a courtesy call on Defense Agency Director-General Fumio Kyuma, an official said.

"The meeting was honest, friendly and proactive in nature," Zhang said at the end of the talks, according to the Japanese official.

"It also looked to long-term issues and the meeting was strategic," Zhang said.

"After Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe took office in Japan, our relationship has improved," Zhang was quoted as saying.

Zhang was later scheduled to hold working-level talks with his counterpart, Takemasa Moriya.

"It is the first time since September 2003 that a top Chinese defense official meets with our defense chief," an official at Japan's Defense Agency said.

"The bilateral talks, which had been held every year at working levels, will focus on regional issues including North Korea," he said.

Zhang, who arrived in Japan on Tuesday, will today visit a military school for cadets in Shizuoka prefecture west of Tokyo.

Military issues have been at the center of friction between the Asian powers.

Japan, along with the US, has called for more transparency in China's rapidly growing military spending and opposes proposals for EU countries to sell weapons to Beijing.

China is considered the country with the most influence over North Korea, whose own military build-up has caused deep concern in Japan.

North Korea on Oct. 9 tested its first nuclear bomb. In 1998, it fired a missile over Japan's main island.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Beijing last month shortly after taking office in a bid to ease tension that grew during Koizumi's five-year tenure.

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