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Japanese PM ends 'spring herald' China tour
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Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda Sunday afternoon wrapped up his four-day China tour, which was seen as a "herald of spring" for China-Japan ties, after paying respect to Confucius in the ancient philosopher's hometown.

The visit to China was "very substantial and meaningful," Fukuda said in an interview at the airport before leaving Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong Province.

He said he had made "rich and in-depth" discussions with Chinese leaders, talking about Japan-China ties from different aspects, and covering "extensive topics."

"It is sure that Japan and China can contribute more to Asia and the world at large if we cooperate with each other," Fukuda said.

He pledged to further enhance mutual understanding and cooperation between the two countries. "We have the responsibility to cement our ties."

On Sunday morning, Fukuda visited the Temple of Confucius in Qufu, which he said left him "deep impression."

"I am so excited to come to the place where the Analects of Confucius was written," Fukuda said.

Confucius is a philosopher admired by both peoples in China and Japan.The works of Confucius, especially the Analects of Confucius, a book compiling his life-long teachings by his students, are quite popular in both countries.

The visit to the Confucian temple demonstrated "the common cultural background between the Chinese people and Japanese people," said Mitsuo Sakaba, press secretary of Japanese foreign minister.

Fukuda is the first incumbent Japanese prime minister that visited the hometown of Confucius. Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who served in the position in mid-1990, visited Qufu in 2002.

Fukuda's visit to the hometown of Confucius was a highlight of his China trip, Zhu Feng, a professor on international relations at Beijing University, told Xinhua.

China and Japan enjoy similarity in culture, which will exert important influence on the long-term development of China-Japan ties, he said.

Before leaving the Temple of Confucius, Fukuda signed four Chinese characters, "wen gu chuang xin", on a visitors' book, a coinage of the Prime Minister probably inspired by Confucius' teaching of "wen gu er zhi xin" which calls people to gain new insights through reviewing old things.

The last two characters of "chuang xin" in Fukuda's coinage means making innovations, implying the prime minister's proposal to develop a "creative partnership" between the two countries, which Zhu said could set a note for the future development of bilateral ties.

"It indeed requires creative thinking and solutions to address issues on history, economy, security and others so to build such a partnership between the two nations," Zhu said.

Fukuda's China trip came amid a warming China-Japan ties. It followed the "ice-breaking" visit by then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in October last year and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's "ice-thawing" trip to Japan in April.

China is Fukuda's third overseas destination as prime minister besides the United States and Singapore.

During his stay in Beijing, he met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and top legislator Wu Bangguo, respectively, and held talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

The two sides agreed that President Hu will pay a visit to Japan next spring, which will be the first visit to Japan by Chinese head of state in 10 years after former Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited Japan in 1998.

In his talks with Premier Wen Jiabao, Fukuda stated four "nos" on the Taiwan issue, saying Japan would give no support to the claims of "one China, one Taiwan", "Taiwan independence" or Taiwan authorities' attempts to join the United Nations and to seek UN membership through "referendum".

The two reached consensus on the East China Sea issue, agreeing to continue the consultation of the vice-ministerial level so to seek workable solutions.

Fukuda said Japan would "very earnestly" reflect on the "agonizing part of history" and continue to follow the path of peaceful development in the hope of establishing "forward-looking China-Japan relations".

The two leaders also agreed to invite some 4,000 youths to take part in bilateral exchanges each year since 2008, which has been designated as a year of friendship between the young people of the two neighboring countries.

Aside from talks with Chinese leaders, Fukuda delivered a speech at Beijing University, played baseball with Premier Wen and visited a primary school before heading for Tianjin, a northern port city, where he visited a factory of Tianjin FAW Toyota Motor Co. Ltd.

(Xinhua News Agency December 31, 2007)

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