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China, Japan agree to strengthen defense cooperation
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Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan and Japanese Chief of Staff of the Joint Staff Office of the Self-Defense Force Saito Takashi on Wednesday agreed to strengthen defense cooperation between the two countries.

Cao, also vice chairman of the Central Military Commission and a state councilor, said he hoped the two countries could take this year, the 30th anniversary of the China-Japan peace and friendship treaty, as an opportunity to promote the healthy and steady development of relations.

"I hope the two sides can prudently and properly handle issues, deepen exchanges and cooperation, continue to consolidate the political basis of bilateral relations, and enhance mutual strategic trust," said Cao.

Saito said stronger ties between the two major powers in Asia was significant to regional and world peace and stability.

He hoped the defense departments of both countries would strengthen high-level exchanges to enhance mutual trust and understanding.

Cao stressed the importance of the Taiwan issue, saying it concerned China's core interests, and he hoped the Japanese side would respect China's positions and oppose "Taiwan independence".

Saito said the Japanese side would adhere to the spirit of the Japan-China joint communiques, adding Japan's position on the Taiwan issue was unchanged.

Before meeting with Cao in Beijing, Saito held talks with his Chinese counterpart, Chen Bingde.

Chen, Chief of General Staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), said he hoped China and Japan would deeply understand and respect each other's security concerns and work harder to build defense security and mutual trust.

Saito told Chen that the visits by Defense Minister Cao and the Chinese fleet to Japan last year marked a new start for exchanges between the two defense departments, and he hoped they would strengthen defense exchanges to promote friendship between Japan and China.

Saito, who arrived on Tuesday, also expressed his sympathy for problems caused by the severe winter weather in southern China.

(Xinhua News Agency February 28, 2008)

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