CHINA / National

Japan urged to help mend ties
Updated: 2006-06-25 09:14

China on Saturday again urged Japan to help put bilateral relations back on the track ahead of a commemoration of the repatriation of 1.05 million Japanese emigrants in China after World War II.

"We hope Japan will work with China towards the same direction, overcome the political obstacles and get bilateral relations back on the track of sound development," Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan said in a meeting with former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama.

Tang and Murayama met in Huludao City, northeast China's Liaoning Province ahead of a forum on China-Japan relations scheduled for Sunday, part of the commemorations marking the 60th anniversary of the repatriation.

On May 7, 1946, nine months after Japan surrendered to the Allies, about 2,500 Japanese emigrants, victims of their country's colonial expansion, began their voyage home from Huludao, marking the beginning of a repatriation effort that lasted into 1948.

Limited by shortages of natural resources, Japan turned to a national policy of emigration and colonization in early last century. Japanese emigration into China saw a surge since 1931, when the Japanese army occupied the northeast of China.

By the end of World War II, there were more than 2 million Japanese emigrants in China, most of whom were farmers in the northeast, according to researchers.

Murayama, who served as Japanese Prime Minister from June 1994 to January 1996, said the repatriation was "a history unknown to most people."

He appreciated Chinese people's humanitarianism shown to the Japanese emigrants.

"The commemorative events will help people get a correct understanding of the history and help mend Japan-China ties," Murayama said.

Tang said that to hold such a forum displays "our resolution and belief to cherish peace, oppose war and promote friendship" and is of great significance under the current situation.

The Sino-Japanese relations have been soured by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan's war dead, including 14 class A criminals in WWII, are honored.

The leaders of the two countries halted exchange visits after Koizumi's homage to the war shrine soon after he took office in 2001.

Tang said that China attached great importance to China-Japan ties and sincerely committed itself to maintaining the friendship between the two peoples.

"China would like to make joint efforts with Japan to realize the peaceful coexistence, lasting friendship and common development between the two countries," he said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao's recent remarks on improving China-Japan relations inspired those Japanese who support bilateral friendship, Murayama said, adding they will make unremitting efforts for Japan-China friendship.

Hu explained China's policy on China-Japan relations on March 31 in a meeting with the heads of seven Japan-China friendship organizations.

The president pointed out that the major obstacle in China-Japan relations was Japanese leaders' insistence on visiting the shrine.

Hu said that the Chinese government believed the Japanese people's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine were different from the leaders', and ordinary Japanese soldiers who were forced into war were different from the few militarists and war criminals.

Tang and Murayama will address Sunday's forum, which is sponsored by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the Liaoning provincial government.