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'Japanese People Are Ready for Wen's Visit'
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The Japanese people are ready to receive Premier Wen Jiabao in April, Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Noriyuki Shikata said on Friday.

"The visit will provide an important opportunity for the Japanese public to get to know the Chinese premier, and they are very interested in that," said Shikata, who is in Beijing to serve as the spokesman for the Japanese delegation to the ongoing six-party talks.

Wen and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met at a regional summit in the central Philippines last month to firm up a timeframe for the first State-level trip by a Chinese leader to Japan in over six years.

Former Premier Zhu Rongji visited Japan in October 2000.

Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing will travel to Japan next Thursday. It is widely believed that his three-day trip will pave the way for Wen's visit.

Shikata said Li would meet with his Japanese counterpart, Taro Aso, and could possibly call on Prime Minister Abe, though the two governments were still discussing the final schedule.

Shikata said the fact that Li's visit was scheduled to end on the eve of Spring Festival, China's most important traditional holiday, demonstrated Beijing's determination to make Wen's visit a complete success for both sides.

He added that Japan was planning to strengthen its ties with China this year by stepping up co-operation on culture and sports.

"A series of activities under this theme will take place in Japan this spring, allowing more Japanese people to get to know more about China," he said, noting that similar activities would be held in China next year to promote Japanese culture and sports.

He said this year was not only the 35th anniversary of the normalization of ties between the two countries, but also the year of Chinese culture and sports in Japan.

Shikata said these two fields were priorities for Japan this year and that Japan was eager to advance bilateral ties on a wide range of issues, such as environmental protection, energy and trade.

The spokesman also said he was optimistic about Sino-Japanese relations despite the challenges.

"Both China and Japan have agreed to solve their disputes and problems through negotiation and dialogue and believe it could work out quite well," he said.

In an effort to speed up the tightening of bilateral ties, the two countries have set up numerous mechanisms for negotiating on a wide range of issues in recent years, including diplomatic strategic talks, talks on the East China Sea and a joint study of the region's history.

(China Daily February 12, 2007)

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