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Japan: Wen's Visit to Boost Ties
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Japan believes Premier Wen Jiabao's April 11-13 visit will boost bilateral ties and hopes the two countries would look for common ground to build trust.

The tour is expected to move all the issues forward because even a small step can bring the two sides much closer, minister of Japan's embassy in Beijing Ide Keiji said Thursday.

The focus will be on confidence building on the East China Sea gas fields dispute because the two countries' foreign ministers agreed on Tuesday to expedite negotiations and settle it through mutually acceptable means.

The two sides are keen to move forward in time for Wen's three-day visit to Japan, he said.

"We are thinking of cooperating with China in helping African countries," Keiji said, calling November's Beijing summit for African countries an important diplomatic event.
The two countries are looking forward to step up substantive cooperation in the fields of environmental protection, too. In fact, China wants Japan's waste-cutting technology to protect its environment.

Japan agreed to give more than US$500 million last week to help seven water and environmental projects in China.

Wen's visit that includes a summit meeting between the two prime ministers sends a message to the world that Sino-Japanese ties are moving forward at a high level and are in the interest of both the countries, Keiji said.

"We should have better ties, a fact deeply realized by the peoples of the two countries," he said.

Japan attaches great importance to diplomatic relations with its neighbors, Keiji said, adding that China is one of the most important among them.

Wen's visit will forge "strategically and mutually beneficial relations" between the two countries as agreed by President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the latter's ice-breaking visit to China in October, Keiji said.

Japan welcomes China's development and its increasing role in the international and regional arenas, and the two countries should work together to address some of today's challenges, he said.

Wen's visit to Japan will be the first by a Chinese premier in seven years during which bilateral ties were almost frozen because of former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japans' war criminals. The controversial shrine honors the country's war dead, including 14 Class-A World War II criminals, and is seen by Japan's neighbors and some other Asian countries as a symbol of the country's militaristic past.

Speaking to Japanese media in Beijing on Wednesday, Wen said that some Japanese leaders have visited the shrine repeatedly, hurting the feelings of the Chinese people and "I hope this will never happen again".

The official position of the Japanese government, Keiji said, is "we should face history squarely" and "let historians study and do their job".

Scholars from China and Japan met twice last December to discuss joint historical research, with the intention of narrowing the historical differences between the two countries. The two sides will submit a report in June next year.

"We hope highly that these people will produce positive results and help us understand each other," Keiji said.

In his post in Beijing for three and a half years, the Japanese diplomat said it was high time the Chinese people saw Japan for what it was and vice versa. As 2007 is the China-Japan sports and cultural year, his embassy is expecting more than 200 events to be held throughout China.

A Japanese carnival will be held in Beijing in September to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan relations, he said.

(China Daily April 6, 2007)

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