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New Hope for Beijing-Tokyo Relations
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After Shinzo Abe, president of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was elected prime minister in a parliamentary vote earlier yesterday, the Foreign Ministry expressed hope that the new Japanese leadership would work to improve frayed bilateral relations.


"We hope the new Japanese leader can make positive efforts to improve and develop Sino-Japanese relations," ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news briefing in Beijing.


As the youngest Prime Minister since World War II, Abe, 52, announced a 17-member cabinet yesterday with outspoken Foreign Minister Taro Aso, 66, who shares many of Abe's conservative views, keeping his portfolio.


Qin said China hopes Abe will "match words with deeds over the issue of placing importance on Asian diplomacy." Qin also repeated China's opposition to prime ministerial visits to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which, among others, honors 14 class-A WWII war criminals.


In the run-up to the election, Abe had made improving Sino-Japanese relations a priority, an encouraging step with relations between the two Asian powers at the worst in decades. This is primarily due to Abe's predecessor Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to the shrine, seen by China and some other Asian nations as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.


"China's position on the issue of Yasukuni Shrine is consistent and clear," Qin said.


China has refused to hold summit meetings with Japanese leaders until official visits to the shrine cease.


"On the question of the timing and conditions for a meeting between the leaders of China and Japan, we have repeatedly clarified our position," Qin said.


Sub-cabinet level talks continued yesterday in Tokyo, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo and his Japanese counterpart Shotaro Yachi. Although precise details have been kept quiet, speculation has been rife that the talks are to pave the way for a summit between the leaders of the two countries. Qin said the talks would continue as long as needed.


Addressing a question on the stalled six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, Qin said China supports and encourages the US and North Korea to hold direct bilateral talks.


"We hope they, as the major responsible parties, can resolve the relevant issues through negotiations with flexible and pragmatic attitudes," Qin said, adding that "China will continue to make constructive efforts and we hope the concerned parties make constructive efforts, too."


He said China and South Korea are preparing for a visit to Seoul by Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei to encourage the resumption of the talks. The talks, involving China, the US, Russia, Japan, South and North Korea, stalled after the first phase of the fifth round of talks ended last November.


(China Daily September 27, 2006)

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