Japan stressed yesterday that it would try to keep improving relations with China in remarks seen as an attempt to allay concerns about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's offering to the Yasukuni Shrine, Kyodo News Agency said.
Chief government spokesman Yasuhisa Shiozaki told a press conference in Tokyo that both Japan and China are determined to build a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests".
"It is important that we maintain this broad current with efforts made by both sides," he said.
Abe offered a masakaki plant for the annual spring festival in late April under the name of the prime minister to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honours 2.5 million Japanese war dead including top World War II criminals.
He has adopted a strategy of ambiguity on paying respects to the Japan's war dead since September, when he took over office from Junichiro Koizumi whose annual pilgrimage to the shrine soured China-Japan ties and angered the Republic of Korea (ROK).
Also yesterday, an ROK minister sent Japan a letter of protest over textbooks distorting wartime history, a day after Seoul expressed regret at Abe's offering to the shrine.
Abe has refused comment on his past and possible future visits to the shrine, saying such remarks would only aggravate Japan's relations with its neighbours.
"He is aware of the political sensibilities of his shrine visit," said Liu Jiangyong, a researcher at the Institute of International Studies affiliated to Tsinghua University.
Shiozaki said yesterday: "We share the resolve to jointly open the way to a beautiful future for our bilateral relations (with China) while squarely facing history. That's what we have reaffirmed during Premier Wen Jiabao's recent visit to Japan."
Beijing has exercised great restraint when commenting on Abe's latest move by urging Japan to strictly abide by the consensus reached between the two countries on overcoming political barriers in bilateral relations.
"Efforts are needed to sustain the hard-won thaw in ties and keep the momentum moving for the better," Liu said.
(China Daily 05/10/2007 page2)