Amid the welcoming crowd lining the streets in the western Japanese coastal town of Toyama Ken, China's top legislator said China and Japan should follow the example of past leaders and work together to build strong bilateral ties.
"There may be problems of this kind or that in Sino-Japanese relations," said Li Peng, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC). "But we should use the same broad-mindedness of the late Premier Zhou Enlai and Mr Kenzo Matsumura to solve these disputes and forge healthy bilateral ties on a broad range of issues."
Matsumura, known as the "well-digger" in Japan-China friendly relations, has worked towards the normalization of bilateral ties since the 1950s. He visited China five times between 1959 and 1970 and died in 1971 at the age of 88.
Li, on an eight-day visit to Japan, made a detour to a commemoration museum in Toyama Ken Saturday before heading for Miyazaki in southern Japan, where he visited a plasma display producer.
After admiring the pictures and letters that Chinese leaders wrote to Matsumura, a native of Toyama Ken, regarding his work to promote ties with China, Li and his wife, Zhu Lin, planted a pine tree in the museum garden.
"The items on display show it was not easy for China and Japan to normalize relations," Li said during a brief on-the-spot interview with a local news agency. "The two sides should carry on with what their statesmen of the last generation have accomplished."
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the normalization of relations between the two neighbours, who fought a bitter war between 1937 and 1945.
Li also made it a point during his trip to promote person-to-person contact between the countries because he said it is an important part of bilateral relations.
A year-long exchange programme between the two countries was launched last Tuesday at a ceremony attended by Li and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Li reassured people in Japan that China's rapid economic development would not pose a threat to Japan, but would offer more opportunities for co-operation between the two countries.
(China Daily April 8, 2002)