Sun, Nov 19, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Hu likely to visit Japan

MENDING FENCES On the sidelines of the APEC summit, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe strove to repair a shaky relationship with China

AGENCIES , HANOI

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) signalled his intention yesterday to visit Japan, officials said, as the two countries seek to mend ties hurt by the previous Japanese prime minister's controversial trips to a war shrine.

Hu and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met in Hanoi where they also agreed to work together to try to restart stalled six-way talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons. The talks are expected to begin again next month.

The pair met on the sidelines of the APEC conference for what was their second round of talks after Abe visited China last month.

Since taking office in September, Abe has moved quickly to try to improve relations with China, which had deteriorated to their coldest in decades over visits by his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, to the Yasukuni war shrine.

When Abe repeated yesterday a previous invitation to visit Japan, Hu expressed thanks and said the matter should be negotiated at a diplomatic level.

"China-Japan relations are moving to an important phase," Abe said. "It is important for the leaders of the two countries to lead our development to a right direction."

"On the whole, we have a positive attitude," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) told reporters of the proposed visit.

The leaders agreed to try to deepen ties, including possibly by holding meetings between economics ministers, but Tokyo and Beijing remain divided by a number of issues.

On the long-running row over development of natural resources around a disputed area of the East China Sea, Abe suggested top-level talks on the issue and Hu agreed, Japanese officials said.

Six rounds of official-level talks have made little progress on the issue.

Abe, who was making his debut at a big-power summit yesterday, scheduled his maiden one-on-one with US President George W. Bush and met the leaders of China and Russia.

"It is important to build their personal relations as our prime minister will meet President Bush for the first time," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said.

The government spokesman said the two leaders would discuss reconstruction and "considering what is best for the people in Iraq."

Bush and Abe were then to hold trilateral talks with South Korea's Roh Moo-Hyun in a bid to confirm their concerted action against the North's nuclear ambition. Abe and Roh will hold separate talks later in the day.

Abe aimed to use the forum here to push for tough action against Pyongyang and its continued defiance on the nuclear issue.

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