Wed, May 07, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Hu lauds closer relations with Tokyo

TENUOUS TIESWhile Hu Jintao spoke of friendship, skeptics cast doubts on whether the visit could narrow disagreements over issues ranging from trade to Taiwan


Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) lauded closer cooperation with Japan when he arrived yesterday for a state visit intended to nurture trust between the Asian powers despite rifts over energy resources and security.

Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura personally went to Tokyo’s Haneda airport to greet Hu, who smiled and waved as more than 200 Chinese chanted “Welcome! Welcome!” and offered him bouquets of flowers. Downtown, some 7,000 police were deployed ahead of threatened protests by hundreds of right-wing activists who see China as a danger.

But China is promoting itself as a friendly neighbor after years of feuding over Japan’s handling of its wartime aggression, and Hu has stressed forward-looking goals for his five days of ceremony, speeches and deals.

“Japan and China are both important countries in Asia and the world,” Hu said in a statement issued on arrival. “Through this visit, I hope to increase mutual trust, reinforce our friendship and deepen our cooperation.

China’s second ever state visit to Japan comes as it seeks to calm international tensions over Tibetan unrest, which has threatened to mar Beijing’s Olympic Games, a showcase of national pride.

With the two economies increasingly intertwined, Hu said better ties were important to both countries’ prosperity.

“I sincerely hope for generations of friendship between the people of China and Japan,” Hu wrote in a message to Japanese readers of a Chinese magazine, Xinhua news agency reported.

Cooperation has “brought real benefits to the people of both countries and spurred the growth and development of each,” Hu said. “These achievements are worth treasuring by the people of China and Japan.”

The Beijing Games were “Asia’s Olympics and the world’s Olympics,” Hu added.

Certainly much is at stake in ties between Asia’s two biggest economies. China replaced the US as Japan’s top trade partner last year, with two-way trade worth US$236.6 billion, up 12 percent from 2006.

But while China’s fast growth offers opportunities, Beijing’s accompanying expansion in diplomatic and military reach has stirred deeper anxieties in Japan over disputed energy resources, military power and the safety standards of Chinese exports.

“Although the iceberg between China and Japan has melted, fully warming relations require further efforts from both sides,” a commentator wrote in China’s People’s Daily yesterday.

The political climax of Hu’s visit is set to be a summit today with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, when they hope to unveil a joint blueprint for managing ties in coming years. But it was unclear whether the avowals of friendship would narrow disagreements or merely bathe them in warm words.

Japanese media reports said touchy references in the document to Taiwan, human rights and Japan’s hopes for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council were still under negotiation.

The two country’s are also quarrelling over the rights to gas beds beneath the East China Sea, while a row over Chinese-made dumplings laced with pesticide that made several people sick has become, analysts say, a symbol of Japanese alarm at China’s rise.

Officials from both sides had raised hopes of a breakthrough in the gas dispute before Hu’s visit, but a swift compromise seems unlikely.

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