Japan PM looks to boost China ties
Yasuo Fukuda visits Beijing urging cooperation between the two long time rivals.
Last Modified: 28 Dec 2007 06:07 GMT
Fukuda, left, is hoping to build on warming ties between the two rival Asian powers [AFP]

Japan's prime minister has arrived in China for a four-day visit that could signal a shift in relations between the long time rivals.


Yasuo Fukuda began the visit on Friday holding talks with Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

"I hope that through joint efforts we can continue to improve and push forward relations between China and Japan to achieve new development," Wen told Fukuda at the beginning of their meeting.
Responding, Fukuda said that Japan and China "are faced with a great chance and responsibility."

"We want to cooperate with you in creating the future of Asia and the world in the broad global perspective," he said.


Fukuda is hoping to build on growing economic ties between China and Japan, as well as discuss divisive issues over disputed territory and the two countries' wartime history.


He is due to hold talks with Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, later on Friday.


"I will do everything in my power to build good relations," Fukuda told reporters on Thursday before departing for Beijing.


Among the topics being discussed will be a long-running dispute over claims to gas reserves in the East China Sea.


China has begun piping gas from an area close to what Japan sees as its own economic zone.


Japanese diplomats said Tokyo and Beijing have made "last-ditch" efforts to reach a compromise in the gas field dispute, but it is unclear whether Fukuda's visit to Beijing will bring the two sides any closer to a deal.


"Negotiations are still under way at various levels. But no agreement has been reached," a Japanese diplomat told Reuters.


In April diplomats from China and Japan agreed to resolve the gas row by autumn of this year, but 11 rounds of talks have failed to produce results.


Talks will aim to overcome several areas of
dispute between the two countries [AFP]
Speaking ahead of Fukuda's arrival, Qin Gang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, was upbeat about the visit saying Beijing planned to "follow the spirit of shelving differences for common development so we can solve the issue at an early date."


Relations between China and Japan have enjoyed a marked thaw in recent years after a long period of icy relations.


China cut high-level contacts with Japan during the 2001-2006 premiership of Junichiro Koizumi due to his visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine, which venerates Japan's war dead, including several convicted war criminals.


Fukuda's predecessor, Shinzo Abe, broke the diplomatic freeze by avoiding visits to the shrine and paying an ice-breaking visit to Beijing in October last year within days of taking office.


Fukuda meanwhile has pledged that he also will not visit the Yasukuni shrine while in office and has taken a conciliatory stance calling for Japan to be humble about its past.


During his visit Fukuda will also give a speech at the prestigious Peking University, and visit Qufu, the birthplace of the Chinese philosopher Confucius.

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