The leaders of Japan and China called for a new era in relations at a summit yesterday, pledging to hold annual meetings, resolve an angry dispute over maritime gas deposits and not allow their bitter history to divide them.
The carefully choreographed summit between Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) was aimed at bolstering ties between the Asian giants.
The two also discussed China’s contentious handling of protests in Tibet. Fukuda praised Beijing for agreeing to meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader.
Both leaders used the meeting to herald greater cooperation between Asia’s most populous nation and its most powerful economy
“Our relations are at a new starting point, and we have a new chance,” Hu said at a joint news conference after the summit, adding later: “Japan and China have an important responsibility to assure peace in Asia.”
As a sign of that determination, the two agreed to hold annual summits, attempting to prevent the recent rift that created a 10-year gap in visits to Japan by a Chinese president.
Fukuda also said the countries were on the verge of resolving a thorny dispute over the exploitation of natural gas fields in the East China Sea. China is tapping the fields, but Japan says they should be jointly developed.
“We believe a breakthrough may now be possible,” Fukuda said, without giving further details.
The two nations have held a series of meetings on the problem, without announcing much progress.
Fukuda also said he hoped for a successful Beijing Olympics, recalling the 1964 summer games in Tokyo that marked Japan’s emergence on the world stage after its defeat in World War II.
Fukuda, however, said he had not decided whether to attend the opening ceremony.
“The world is watching. We hope the Chinese government and people realize this and that people will be able to watch the games with pleasure,” he said.
Hu said fledgling talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives would continue, though he offered veiled accusations.
“We hope that the Dalai will express his sincerity through his acts,” Hu said. “We hope the Dalai will stop acting to separate the homeland, stop orchestrating the inciting of violent acts and stop undermining the Beijing Olympics, so as to create the conditions for further discussions. We hope that the contacts will have a positive result.”
Hundreds of demonstrators marched against China’s policy in Tibet and thousands of riot police were mobilized to ensure Hu’s safety.
After a ceremony at the imperial palace, he went to the summit with Fukuda, then on to a lunch with business leaders and a meeting with the heads of Japan’s main political parties.
Hu and Fukuda were to play pingpong today before Hu went off to see Yokohama and Nara.