Wen wants Japan visit to thaw 'ice'

By Le Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-17 06:31

Premier Wen Jiabao said on Friday he hoped his visit to Japan next month would be an "ice-thawing" one for improving China-Japan relations.

"If Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe's visit to China last October can be termed as an 'ice-breaking trip', I hope my visit to Japan in April will be an 'ice-thawing journey'," Wen said at a news conference after the closing of the annual session of the National People's Congress, the top legislative body.

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Wen's visit will be the first by a Chinese leader to Japan in seven years, underscoring the long chill in bilateral relations because of former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to the Tokyo-based Yasukuni Shrine where 14 Japanese class-A World War II criminals are enshrined.

Wen said he expects to reach consensus with Abe on the framework of strategic and mutually beneficial relations between the two countries, and set up a mechanism to boost bilateral economic cooperation.

Noting China and Japan still have "many outstanding problems", he urged the two sides to promote scientific and educational exchanges and interactions between the two peoples, especially between the young people.

During Abe's visit to China, the two leaders agreed to make efforts to build a strategic and mutually beneficial relationship.

"I hope that, through our joint efforts, we can put in place a friendship and cooperation framework between our two countries that will have sound development in a stable manner in the long run," Wen said.

High-level visits by Chinese and Japanese leaders create a sound atmosphere for bilateral relations, but it is too early to say that the ice on bilateral ties has completely thawed, Zhang Yunling, a senior researcher of Asia-Pacific studies at the Chinese Academy of social Sciences, said.

The shrine issue will continue to be a crux, and other issues such as the disputed gas exploration in the East China Sea, add to difficulties in developing good bilateral relations, Zhang said.

He said: "The priority now is that the two countries should identify where their strategic interests lie and in which fields they can be mutually beneficial."

(China Daily 03/17/2007 page2)

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