The Foreign Ministry said yesterday that at the invitation of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Premier Wen Jiabao will pay an official visit to the two countries from April 10 to 13.
Ministry spokesman Qin Gang made the announcement at a regular news briefing.
Wen will begin his "ice-thawing" trip to Japan on April 11, advancing efforts to establish strategic and mutually beneficial bilateral ties. The three-day tour will be the first by the Chinese premier in seven years as the two countries work to improve relations chilled by former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to a war shrine.
Wen will fly to Tokyo from Seoul, where he is expected to stay for two days to attend the opening ceremony of the "Year of Exchange," a program celebrating the 15th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and South Korea.
According to Japanese sources, Wen will hold a summit meeting with Abe and also make an official visit to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. Additionally, a speech at the Japanese Parliament during his stay is on a tentative schedule.
The two nations also hope to hold a major energy seminar during Wen's visit with participants from government ministries and leaders of about 100 Japanese and Chinese energy firms.
Wen said earlier this month that he was expecting to establish a strategic relationship of mutual benefit between China and Japan and set up an economic cooperation mechanism during his Japan tour.
Wen's remarks were echoed by Abe, who told a news conference yesterday that his Chinese counterpart's visit would provide an opportunity to build a strategic relationship.
Abe chose China as the destination for his first overseas trip after taking office in September, a move that is believed to have improved bilateral ties.
"Our cooperation based on active discussions will lead to peace and prosperity in the region," Abe was quoted as saying.
He said he will seek Wen's support to resolve the kidnapping issue with North Korea, and also wanted to win China's support for Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
In response to Abe's comments, Qin Gang expressed sympathy and understanding toward the abduction problem but said it was still an issue between Tokyo and Pyongyang, which should be resolved through negotiations.
With regard to the Security Council seat, Qin said it "required multilateral dialogues to decide and would involve many countries."
He also rebutted a Japanese Defense Ministry report that called China's growing influence in Asia a threat to Japan's national security, saying China hopes to have good relations with its neighbors across the entire region.
Meanwhile, China and Japan have agreed to hold talks in Tokyo tomorrow over the gas field disputes in the East China Sea, according to Qin.
Hu Zhengyue, director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Department of Asian Affairs, and Kenichiro Sasae, director-general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, will attend the meeting as top negotiators.
Qin said the two countries have different views in this area but "we believe joint development is the best way to resolve the differences."
Similar dialogues have been held six times since October 2004, but an agreement has yet to be reached.
Qin announced that Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing will visit Islamabad from April 1 to 2 at the invitation of his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Kasuri.
Following his Pakistan tour, Li will fly to New Delhi to attend the 14th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) there from April 3 to 4.
This is the first time a Chinese delegation will attend the SAARC summit since China became an observer state, Qin said, adding that "We welcome the move by the SAARC to absorb China as one of its observers."
As a friendly neighbor of the SAARC, Qin said, China is willing to conduct exchanges and cooperation with the organization based on equality and mutual benefit so as to contribute to development and prosperity of the region.
The SAARC is an important regional organization and China always supports the cooperation between SAARC members, Qin said.
Founded in 1985, the SAARC includes Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. China, Japan, South Korea, the US and the EU are observers of the organization.
Qin also announced that Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, Spanish first deputy prime minister and minister for the Prime Minister's Office, will visit China from April 2 to 8.
Premier Wen and State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan will meet with her to confer on bilateral relations and issues of common concern.
Fernandez de la Vega is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony of the "Year of Spain," scheduled to be held in China.
Besides Beijing, she will also visit Shanghai, China's economic hub, and Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
Qin said Sino-Spanish relations have been developing well in recent years, adding that both countries have had frequent exchange of high-level visits, and set up a strategic partnership.
The two countries also enjoy close cooperation in the fields of trade, culture, education, science and technology, he said.
China and Spain will hold a series of activities this year, including the "Year of Spain" in China and a Chinese cultural festival in Spain, Qin said.
"We believe such activities will help promote mutual understanding and further push forward bilateral ties," he added.
In response to some Latin American countries' purchase of Taiwan's jet fighters, including Chile and Mexico, Qin expressed China's firm opposition over any official and military exchanges between Taiwan and any countries having diplomatic ties with the Chinese mainland.
"All the countries in the world, including those Latin American countries, are quite clear about China's principled stance on the Taiwan issue," Qin said.
"We hope those Latin American countries can properly handle relevant issues based on the one-China policy they acknowledged," he said.
Qin also expressed China's firm opposition to and strong dissatisfaction over Saint Lucia's receiving of Taiwan's "foreign minister," saying it violated the principle sustaining China-Saint Lucia ties.
Recently, the Saint Lucia government had allowed the "foreign minister" to visit, and arranged meetings between him and leaders of the country.
The Chinese ambassador has already made a firm statement to the Saint Lucia government about the issue, Qin said.
China hopes the Saint Lucia government will abide by the one-China principle established in the communiqué, and promote the stable development of bilateral ties, he added.
"In addition, I need to point out that the Taiwan authorities tried to use all kinds of despicable means in an attempt to create 'two Chinas' in the international arena in order to realize their political aim of Taiwan seceding from China and harm the friendly ties between China and the countries having diplomatic ties with it," Qin said.
Such an attempt is doomed to failure, he added.
(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily March 28, 2007)