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Chinese premier will visit Japan in April, Beijing says

Japan's Prime Minister Abe says he remains committed to warmer relations with China

Chinese premier will visit Japan in April, Beijing says

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will visit Japan in April as the Asian rivals step up efforts to improve relations, Beijing said, although it also voiced concerns over lingering "sensitive" issues.
Wen's trip follows Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to China in October last year soon after he took office, a key event that helped lead to the cautious thawing of ties between the region's two biggest economies.
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told visiting Japanese vice minister for foreign affairs Shotaro Yachi on Thursday that Wen would make the first visit by a Chinese premier for seven years.
"Chinese-Japanese relations are facing very important opportunities to develop," Li said, according to a statement posted on the foreign ministry's website.
"Both sides should make common efforts to ensure the visit is fully successful and push for the healthy, long-term and stable development of Sino-Japanese relations."
China had not previously given a date for the trip. Wen will become the first Chinese leader to visit Japan since former premier Zhu Rongji in 2000.
The announcement came as the two nations held a seventh round of "strategic dialogue" which began in 2005 when relations were near their lowest point under former Japanese leader Junichiro Koizumi.
The two nations have struggled for years over a wide range of disputes, including Japan's military occupation of China last century and rival claims for natural resources in the East China Sea.
Relations plummeted under Koizumi largely due to his repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors war criminals among the remembered dead.
China called off all top-level exchanges due to the Yasukuni dispute, and only agreed to resume senior encounters such as Wen's visit after Abe came to power with a policy of re-engagement.
Abe told the Japanese parliament yesterday that he remained committed to improving relations with China, which he said had already started thanks to "heart-to-heart" talks.
"We will forge strategic reciprocal relations with China for the benefit of the two countries," Abe said.
However Li also made clear China was still approaching Japan very cautiously.
"Politically this is a very important and sensitive year," Li told Yachi.
"We hope to appropriately handle the concerned sensitive issues."
Highlighting the fragility of their ties, China responded tersely on Thursday to plans by Japanese nationalists to make a film giving their version of the 1937 Nanjing massacre.
Chinese historians say around 300,000 civilians were slaughtered in an orgy of murder, rape and destruction by Japanese troops in the eastern city, while allied trials of Japanese World War II criminals documented 140,000 dead.
However some Japanese historians say the toll was less or deny the massacre altogether, alleging that victims were soldiers and not civilians, a position that infuriates the Chinese.
Jin Linbo, a researcher from the China Institute of International Studies, described current bilateral relations as "fairly delicate."
Jin warned that if Abe visited the Yasukuni shrine - he has so far refused to say whether he would or not - relations would return to their frosty state.
"Abe has never made a clear stance on the issue of shrine visits. If he visits the shrine ... China would stop the mutual visits, everything would return to like it was during the Koizumi time."


Updated : 2021-05-19 10:32 GMT+08:00