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Japanese, Chinese prime ministers toss baseball following talks to improve ties

Japanese, Chinese prime ministers toss baseball following talks to improve ties

Japan's visiting Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda met schoolchildren and tossed a baseball with his Chinese counterpart Saturday, in some lighthearted moments a day after talks to improve historically strained ties with China's leaders.
"Prime Minister Fukuda said the spring has come in our relations and after 2 1/2 hours of talks, I truly feel that the spring of China-Japan relations has indeed arrived," said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
Fukuda's China visit, which ends Sunday, has been hailed by both sides as a success and has produced agreements to cooperate on fighting climate change and increase youth exchanges.
Arrangements were being made for China's President Hu Jintao to visit Japan next year _ the first such trip by a Chinese head of state in 10 years.
With China-Japan ties often strained by disputes over territory, resources and wartime history, Fukuda's four-day visit _ his first as prime minister _ apparently marked another turning point toward warmer relations.
"China-Japan relations have never faced this kind of opportunity, and I believe China and Japan should become creative partners to build a better Asia and world," Fukuda said Friday in a speech at Peking University, calling both countries "major presences in the world."
The next day, Fukuda and Wen _ wearing full baseball uniforms _ played a game of catch after a breakfast meeting at a state guesthouse. The pair laughed, joked and chased stray balls as journalists and a half-dozen Chinese players looked on.
Wen wore a gray jersey from Kyoto's Ritsumeikan University, where he played baseball with students during a visit to Japan in April. The back of the jersey had his name and the number 35 _ for the 35th anniversary of Japan-China diplomatic relations. Fukuda, a baseball player in high school, wore a plain red and white uniform.
Fukuda also visited a Beijing elementary school, whose students will cheer for Japanese athletes during the Beijing Olympics, which begin in August. He smiled and waved at about 100 children who had lined the school sports field, bouncing in time to music while waving pompoms, stuffed Olympic toys and Chinese and Japanese flags.
The Japanese leader toured a Toyota plant in the industrial port city of Tianjin in the afternoon. Though the main purpose of his visit was to improve diplomatic relations and discuss thorny issues such as a long-running dispute over gas reserves in the East China Sea, economic ties would not be ignored, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.
"China has been developing very rapidly and Japanese investment and Japanese businesses are coming to China," said ministry spokesman Mitsuo Sakaba. "So for expanding Japanese economic and business relations with China, is it is important for Japanese leaders to look on-the-spot at how the local cities are developing."
Talks with Wen and Hu touched on climate change, with Tokyo eager to help China tackle pollution problems that are increasingly felt across the sea in Japan. Officials also discussed North Korea _ a close Beijing ally that abducted Japanese citizens during the 1970s and '80s.
North Korea admitted in 2002 it kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens, then sent five home and said the remaining eight were dead. Japan has demanded proof of the deaths, however, and says more of its citizens may have been taken.
No progress was expected on the East China Sea territorial issue, but both Fukuda and Wen said they wanted to resolve it as quickly as possible.
In his Peking University speech, Fukuda referred to Japan's invasion and occupation of China. "I believe we can prevent mistakes in the future only if we properly look at the past, and have the courage and wisdom to repent what we must repent," he said.
Before returning home he will visit Qufu, the birthplace of the ancient philosopher Confucius. The visit is a nod to the influence of Chinese culture in Japan, demonstrating "the common cultural background between the Chinese people and Japanese people," Sakaba said.


Updated : 2021-06-14 18:07 GMT+08:00