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Asia-Pacific
Hu visit looks to thaw Japan ties
Warm words but few breakthroughs expected as Chinese leader heads for Japan.
Last Modified: 06 May 2008 08:18 GMT
Hu  has said he expects the tone of his Japan visit to be like a 'warm spring' [GALLO/GETTY]

 

Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, is due to arrive in Japan on Tuesday on a trip intended to reinforce a thaw in relations between the two long-standing rivals.

 

Hu is the most senior Chinese official to visit Jap

The five-day visit will also be the Chinese leader's first overseas visit since the outbreak of unrest in Tibet in March.

Protests over China's handling of the Tibetan unrest have dogged the recent world tour of the Olympic flame, and much attention will be focused on whether the issue is raised during Hu's visit.

 

During his stay Hu is due to hold talks with Yasuo Fukuda, the Japanese prime minister, as well as attend a range of social events, including a possible table tennis game with the Japanese leader.

 

Hu has said he expects the tone of his visit to be like a "warm spring", adding that he was "looking forward to meeting with my old Japanese friends and making more new friends".

 

From the Japanese perspective, Fukuda told Japanese media ahead of the visit that he hoped the talks would help underpin security in the Asia-Pacific region.

 

"There are a wide range of issues to talk about, not only Japan-China relations but also peace and stability and economy in the region, and I hope we can exchange views from a broad perspective," he said.

 

The Japanese leader is also hoping to win commitments from the Chinese side on measures to combat global warming.

 

Summit

 

Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine, which honours Japan's
war dead, remains controversial [AFP]
 

The centrepiece of Hu's Japan visit will be a summit meeting with Fukuda on Wednesday, after which a joint statement will be issued.

 

But while a lot of warm talk is expected, little concrete progress is expected on the tougher issues that have bedevilled Sino-Japanese ties for decades.

 

Analysts say long-standing differences over Japan's wartime occupation of China and visits by Japanese politicians officials to Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni war shrine are unlikely to be addressed.

 

Other issues such as territorial disputes may crop up in discussions, but again few breakthroughs are expected – largely because both leaders do not want to seem weak by appearing to compromise.

 

"The fact of the visit is probably more significant than any specific agreement that will be announced," Susan L. Shirk, a China politics expert at University of California, San Diego, told the Associated Press.

 

"Both countries are trying to stabilise relations and looking forward to managing their relations in a way that will help stabilise the region," she said.

 

With mounting international criticism aimed at China over its crackdown in Tibet, there will be much attention focused on whether Fukuda raises the issue with his guest.

 

If he does voice any criticisms - as he did with the Chinese foreign minister last month - Hu may feel obliged to hit back.

 

Common ground

 

Overall though the tone of the meeting is expected to focus on building common ground and strengthening a trading relationship upon which both sides are increasingly reliant.

 

According to Chinese statistics, two-way trade topped $237bn last year.

 

One issue likely to crop up in talks is Japan's wish to replace the recently deceased panda, Ling Ling.

 

The former star attraction at Tokyo's main zoo died last week of heart failure.

 

"I heard that the main reason people used to go to Ueno Zoo was the panda," Fukuda said last week.

 

"It would be nice if we have a panda there again."

 

Source:
Agencies
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