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Japan's prime minister set to visit China today, seeking reconciliation

Japan's prime minister set to visit
China today, seeking reconciliation

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda heads today to China on a mission to further ease strains in relations between the Asian powers which hit rock bottom just a few years ago.
Fukuda, a political veteran paying his first visit to Beijing since taking over in September, is hoping to show his skills as a diplomat after a sharp slide in his approval ratings at home.
"I expect to further promote the development trend of Japan-China ties so that next year bilateral ties can develop even faster and move to a new stage," Fukuda said in an interview.
The Japanese leader will spend four days in China that will include a summit with President Hu Jintao and a visit to Qufu, birthplace of the legendary philosopher Confucius.
Japan will reportedly offer to help China tackle its growing pollution problems, but talks are also expected to cover tough ground, with China and Japan at an impasse over hotly contested gas fields.
Fukuda's trip will be the first by a Japanese leader to China since October last year, when then Japan Premier Shinzo Abe headed to Beijing and launched a reconciliation drive.
Unlike his predecessors, Fukuda has long been known for his conciliatory approach to China including his unambiguous opposition to the Yasukuni war shrine, which Beijing and Seoul see as a symbol of Japan's past imperialism.
China has voiced hope at finding a resolution soon over the gas fields in the energy-rich East China Sea.
But analysts said China would likely try to work to improve ties during Fukuda's visit, hoping for some concrete achievements in time for Hu's scheduled visit to Japan in the spring.
"A Chinese president in general wouldn't pay a visit to Japan without a guarantee of diplomatic achievement," said Hidenori Ijiri, a professor of international relations at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.
Hu will be only the second Chinese president to visit Tokyo after Jiang Zemin, whose 1998 trip was tense due to his demands that Japan use stronger language to atone for past atrocities.
Experts say Asia's two largest economies have little choice but to improve ties, with Beijing hoping to ensure a glitch-free Olympics next year.
"China wants to keep a good relationship with Japan as it prepares for the Beijing Olympics," said Robert Dujarric, a scholar at Temple University.
"For Fukuda it is a good opportunity to show that he is a good diplomat, given that his approval ratings have been declining due to domestic politics," he said.
Japan's business community is particularly keen for a strong relationship with China, which is the country's largest commercial partner and a key driver of its economic growth.
"It's unthinkable for Japan to ruin ties with China, given its massive presence as a trading partner for Tokyo and as an emerging power," said Yoshikazu Sakamoto, a professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo.

Updated : 2021-07-30 19:52 GMT+08:00