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Fine food, wine accompany chat on boosting relations
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Japanese Emperor Akihito and President Hu Jintao sipped champagne and dined on lobster and steamed perch in red wine on Wednesday at a welcome dinner held for the visiting Chinese leader at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

As they enjoyed the French banquet, the heads of state chatted about the 2,000-year history of friendly exchanges between the two countries and how each had benefited from the other's experience.

In particular, Emperor Akihito talked of the Japanese envoys dispatched to China during the Tang Dynasty (AD618-907) and how Japan used what it learned at the time to plan the ancient cities of Kyoto and Nara, which Hu will visit on Saturday.

Emperor Akihito also spoke of the decades-long cooperation between Japan and China to help save the Japanese crested ibis, describing it as a symbol of friendship between the two countries.

"As I think of the long years of efforts by those who have worked together, transcending borders, to protect the Japanese crested ibis, I hope the day will come soon when the ibis, as a symbol of our nations' friendship, can spread its white wings in our skies," the emperor said.

The Japanese crested ibis, whose scientific name is Nipponia Nippon, used to be found in the wild in Japan but since 2003, has survived only in captivity.

Three ibises presented by China to Japan have helped with the artificial breeding of the internationally protected bird and there are now 100 of them in Japan, Emperor Akihito said.

He also expressed his hope that the young people of both countries will enhance the nations' friendship in the future.

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