Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Tokyo Wednesday for a three-day official visit he described as an "ice melter" of Sino-Japanese ties following the "ice-breaking" trip to China last October by his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.
The visit is the first by a Chinese premier since 2000 and occurs against the backdrop of the two countries working hard to mend relations.
Their relationship turned frosty under Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, largely due to his annual visits to the Yasukuni shrine, where Japan's war dead including 14 class-A World War II criminals were enshrined.
"If Prime Minister Abe's visit to China... can be described as an ice breaker, then I hope my visit to Japan will be an ice thawer," Wen told the press before his visit.
Abe chose China as the destination for his first overseas trip after taking office in September, a move believed to be a sign of the new prime minister's eagerness to improve relations with China.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry officials have revealed that the economic issue will be high up on Wen's agenda.
China and Japan will draft a joint document spelling out the two countries' aspirations to build a strategic, mutually beneficial relationship, and the major tasks involved in this relationship, according to Chinese officials.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said that through the visit, Wen also hopes to promote long-term educational, cultural and youth exchanges between the two countries that would boost good-neighborly relations between China and Japan.
During his stay, Wen is expected to hold talks with Abe and deliver a speech in the Japanese Diet (or parliament), the first by a Chinese leader in 22 years.
In the 35 years since they normalized relations, China and Japan have witnessed a steady growth of bilateral exchanges. The two countries also disagree over historical issues and dispute over natural gas fields in the East China Sea.
(Xinhua News Agency April 11, 2007)