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Fukuda arrives in China, aims to end dispute over gas fields

Fukuda arrives in China, aims to end dispute over gas fields

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda arrived in Beijing yesterday for a trip aimed at ending a long-running dispute over lucrative gas fields, and to build on warming ties between the Asian powers.
Fukuda, who has sought better relations with Beijing throughout his career, will spend four days in China for talks with the nation's top leaders, and will also promote Japanese business interests and attend cultural events.
Relations between Asia's two biggest economies are undoubtedly improving after hitting rock bottom a few years ago, but the two sides have yet to resolve their competing territorial claims in the gas-rich East China Sea.
Fukuda said before departing Tokyo that a breakthrough in the dispute could finally come during his trip.
"We could come to an agreement if talks go well," Fukuda told reporters. "We should solve this as swiftly as possible."
The Asahi Shimbun reported yesterday that the two countries held secret talks on the gas dispute ahead of Fukuda's visit.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi, a former ambassador to Tokyo, came to Japan last week and made a new proposal for joint development, the newspaper said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang yesterday confirmed Wang's trip took place and also voiced hope for a quick resolution, but refused to be drawn on whether a deal would come during Fukuda's trip.
"We hope that both sides can expedite our negotiations on the East China Sea so that common development can take place at an early date," Qin said.
Eleven rounds of negotiations since 2004 have yielded little, with China rejecting the maritime border which Japan considers a starting point for discussions.
But China is seen as wanting progress before China's President Hu Jintao pays a landmark trip to Tokyo in the spring.
Fukuda's trip is the first by a Japanese premier since October last year, when his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, broke a freeze by heading to Beijing within days of taking office.
China cut high-level contacts with Japan during the 2001-2006 premiership of Junichiro Koizumi due to his visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine, which venerates war criminals who invaded China, alongside another 2.5 million war dead.
Fukuda - whose father, late Japan premier Takeo Fukuda, signed a landmark friendship treaty with China in 1978 - has consistently opposed the Yasukuni shrine and called for Japan to be humble about its past.
A Japanese foreign ministry official said Fukuda's trip to China showed relations between the two nations were finally back on track.


Updated : 2021-06-25 21:08 GMT+08:00