Thu, Apr 30, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Japanese prime minister arrives in China for visit


Japan’s prime minister arrived in China yesterday for a two-day visit aimed at laying stronger foundations for cooperation between the historic Asian rivals, amid global economic and health crises.

Prime Minister Taro Aso, on his first state visit to China, was scheduled to meet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) yesterday and President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) today, despite flare-ups over long-standing issues.

Aso last week upset China with an offering to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni war shrine, and Japan’s foreign minister chided Beijing over its nuclear weapons program.

China’s angry responses highlighted the sensitive nature of the relationship, with Beijing remembering Japan’s past wartime abuses and Tokyo looking warily at China’s rising might.

But analysts said Asia’s two biggest economies would seek pragmatic ways to tackle mutual threats.

They were expected to discuss a range of issues from measures to combat a deadly strain of swine flu to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions to cooperation and dispute settlement in economic issues.

The summit aims to “nurture individual trust between the leaders ... and to promote friendly national sentiment toward each other,” said Akio Takahara, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Tokyo. “The two countries are already important partners on the economic front and in security.”

Ties have generally warmed significantly since the era of former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, who infuriated China with his annual visits to the Yasukuni shrine.

China suspended top-level talks with Japan during Koizumi’s 2001 to 2006 tenure and only resumed dialogue after Shinzo Abe took over as prime minister and refrained from making similar visits.

One of the most pressing bilateral challenges is the global downturn. The two nations have said they must work together to face the crisis, as well as for ­longer-term economic development.

“China needs Japan’s investment and technologies for its development, especially related to energy efficiency and environmental protection,” Takahara said.

North Korea’s controversial nuclear weapons program will also be on the agenda.

Japan, with the US, led a push to punish North Korea after it launched a rocket over Japanese territory early this month, while the regime’s communist ally China, and Russia, favored a softer line.

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