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Abe Urged to Keep His Word, Mend Ties
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China expressed hope yesterday that the newly-elected president of Japan's ruling party will "make sincere efforts" to improve Sino-Japanese relations.

Shinzo Abe, who received an overwhelming 464 votes out of 703, was elected the 21st chief of the Liberal Democratic Party yesterday.

"We hope the new LDP leader can match his words with action and make sincere efforts towards the improvement of bilateral relations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

Abe who has repeatedly declared that he seeks better ties with China is set to succeed Junichiro Koizumi as Japan's prime minister next Tuesday, given the LDP's majority in the House of Representatives which has the final say in the choice.

He has defended Koizumi's pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan's war dead, including World War II criminals are honored; and refused to say whether he would visit the shrine as prime minister.

"The key to solving the present difficulties is for the Japanese leader to make an early resolution on removing the political barrier of the shrine visits, and bringing bilateral relations back on track," Qin told a regular news briefing on Tuesday.

Judging from Abe's political record and his words and actions while serving as chief cabinet secretary, it is hard to expect breakthroughs in the settlement of disputes between the two nations, said Zheng Donghui, a researcher on Japan at the China Institute of International Studies.

The son of a foreign minister and grandson of a prime minister, Abe has positioned himself as a hawkish politician. Pacifists say Abe is a nationalist who will push for a militarized Japan, while supporters claim he just wants a stronger foreign policy.

"Anyway, he can't avoid the problem of the Yakusuni Shrine, on which he has to make a wise political decision if he wants to improve Sino-Japanese relations," Zheng said.

China has refused to hold a summit with Koizumi because of his repeated visits to the shrine, seen by China and many other Asian countries as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

In fact, Zheng said, it was Koizumi who created the stalemate because of his obstinate persistence in visiting the shrine.

South Korea also expressed hope yesterday that its relations with Japan would improve with a stop to Japanese leaders' visits to the shrine.

(Xinhua News Agency September 21, 2006)


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