China and Japan on Monday launched regular exchange mechanism between their top legislative bodies during Japan's Upper House president Chikage Ogi's visit to China. The move is widely seen as a signal that the two Asian neighbors are stepping up efforts to repair ties.
China's top legislator Wu Bangguo and Japan's House of Councilors President Chikage Ogi signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Beijing on Monday, and expressed the hope that the mechanism will provide an opportunity for the two countries to carry out pragmatic cooperation and exchanges to benefit bilateral relations.
Ogi is the first Japanese Upper House chief to visit China in seven years since her predecessor Juro Saito's trip in 1999.
Ogi's visit came a week after Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the first Japanese leader to have visited China in five years, held summit talks with Chinese leaders in Beijing. Chinese President Hu Jintao described Abe's visit as a "turning point" in relations.
"Prime Minister Abe and the Chinese leaders reached a series of consensus on developing China-Japan relations during the visit, breaking the political stalemate between the two countries and bringing bilateral ties to the normal track of development," said Wu, who is chairman of the Standing Committee of Chinese National People's Congress.
China-Japan relations soured over former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's persistent visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Japanese Class-A World War II criminals are honored along with the country's other war dead.
Describing the past five years as "the most difficult" period in bilateral relations, Wu said the improvement of China-Japan relations is a hard-won result and needs to be cherished.
But Wu said Japan should be sensitive to history and the Taiwan issue, two things that form the political foundation of bilateral relations.
"The fact proves that, if we handle such issues in accordance with the three political documents, China-Japan relations will move ahead soundly, otherwise they will stagnate or back up," Wu pointed out.
Ogi's China tour coincides with a meeting between the ruling parties of the two countries to be held in Tokyo.
The Chinese delegation, headed by Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Community Party of China, was invited to attend by the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party and Komei Party.
The meeting is part of the China-Japanese ruling parties exchange mechanism, which was established in 2004 and formally launched in February this year.
In addition, the two countries have made frequent contacts at non-governmental level in the past years. The China-Japan strategic dialogue also throws open for discussion a range of thorny issues of mutual concern.
Abe and Ogi's visits can be seen as signs that China-Japan relations have entered a period of "favorable interaction", said Wang Shan, a Japan expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
China and Japan have broken the political stalemate and unveiled multi-level exchanges, which will offer a strategic opportunity for the development of bilateral relations, Wang added.
(Xinhua News Agency October 17, 2006)