CHINA / National

Japan says would welcome China President Hu visit
Updated: 2006-06-12 12:47

Japan's top government spokesman said on Monday that Tokyo would welcome a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to improve ties between the two nations.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe confirmed reports that Hu had told a Japanese diplomat in Beijing on Saturday that he hoped to visit Japan at an appropriate time under the right conditions.

"Japan's door is always open and we would like to welcome President Hu," Abe told reporters.

Asked about the possibility of Koizumi holding such talks before his term in office expires in September, Abe said:

"In light of the importance of Sino-Japanese relations, it is natural that summit talks between the two leaders should take place."

Ties between Beijing and Tokyo have cooled in large part due to Koizumi's annual visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine, where some convicted World War Two war criminals are honoured along with Japan's war dead.

Hu and other Chinese leaders have said the shrine visits are a big obstacle to improved ties, although the two countries have also been feuding over other issues including territorial rights, energy resources and mutual suspicion over military policy.

But Abe quoted Hu as telling Japanese ambassador to China Yuji Miyamoto in Beijing on Saturday: "I hope to visit Japan at an appropriate time when conditions are smoothed out."

Abe added: "We basically take his remarks positively, as they focus on the importance of Sino-Japanese relations."

In a sign of a potential thaw in relations, Japan earlier this month gave the go-ahead to grant 74 billion yen ($650 million) in low-interest loans to China after delaying the decision for more than two months due to the strained ties.