Giving an interview to journalists from 16 Japanese media outlets, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced he expected a successful trip to Japan next week, and hoped Japanese leaders would refrain from visiting the Yasukuni shrine in the future.
The interview came shortly before Wen's Japan tour slated for April 11-13, the first to Japan by a Chinese premier in seven years.
Addressing the Yasukuni issue, Wen warned that "the shrine visits by individual Japanese leaders over the past few years deeply hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and seriously undermined China-Japan ties," Wen said. "I hope this will never happen again."
High-level contacts between the two East Asian neighbors were suspended for several years due to former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's persistent visits to the shrine honoring 14 class-A WWII criminals among Japan’s war dead.
Wen revealed that a joint document would be drafted during his stay.
"The joint document will spell out the two countries' aspirations to build a strategic, mutually beneficial relationship, and the meaning and major tasks involved in this relationship," Wen said. "This is a significant event, ushering in a new era of China-Japan relations."
Wen stated the relationship should rest on common pillars of mutual trust, honoring commitments, and seeking common ground while respecting each other’s differences.
Wen added that the two neighbors should look to the future, laying out a mechanism of consultations that would allow them to handle any challenges.
Also on Wednesday, Abe spoke at his official residence to say he expected Japan and China to develop strategic, mutually beneficial relations.
"Wen's and Abe's remarks indicate that the two governments have a very similar agenda," said Jin Xide, a research fellow on Japanese studies at the China Academy of Social Sciences.
"However, with the political foundation and public sentiments China-Japan relations still undergoing a healing process, the rebuilding of this relationship will be long and slow." Jin said.
Wen's visit will aim to maintain the positive momentum of China-Japan ties, which have been steadily improving since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ice-breaking China visit last October.
Wen reiterated China's appreciation that Abe had elected to come to China during his first trip overseas as Prime Minister, adding that he would invite Abe to come to China again later this year. He also said that President Hu Jintao would travel to Japan at a time that proves convenient for both sides.
Wen's visit will come during the 35th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan relations and the Year of Cultural and Sports Exchanges.
Encouraging momentum has also been seen in trade with the Sino-Japanese volume there of increasing by 200 times from US$1.1 billion in 1972 to US$207.4 billion in 2006.
Addressing the issue, Wen revealed that he and Abe would lead a meeting in Tokyo to mark the beginning of a bilateral economic dialogue mechanism.
Wen also revealed his optimism as to resolving the East China issue and to whom the gas resources belong.
After holding the latest round of talks on the issue in Tokyo last week, Wen said that "the two countries have agreed to put disputes aside and jointly develop the area. We believe the issue can be resolved by peaceful means as long as we continue to work together and have more negotiations."
On regional issues, Wen turned to the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.
The premier pledged these "would not come to a halt" and that China would maintain its consistent work towards progress.
China understands and sympathizes with Japan's position on the abduction issue and is willing to help resolve it, Wen said in the interview.
Taking place in the Chinese government compound at Zhongnanhai, the interview also touched on trade and military exchanges between the two countries.
During Wen's stay in Tokyo, he will hold talks with Abe and meet with Emperor Akihito before also delivering a speech to Diet, the Japanese parliament.
The three-day tour will then see Wen visit a university in the ancient city of Kyoto.
The premier will also make a brief one-day stop in the Republic of Korea before flying on to Japan.
(Xinhua News Agency April 5, 2007)