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    Japan, China agree to regular summits on landmark visit

    AFP
    07.05.2008 - 12:47 | Son Güncelleme:

    The leaders of Japan and China agreed Wednesday to resolve a territorial row and start regular summits to ease decades of tension, pledging that Asia’s two largest economies would not see each other as a threat.

    Paying the first visit by a Chinese head of state to Tokyo in a decade, President Hu Jintao praised Japan’s "peaceful" role in world affairs and offered to lend two pandas to the capitals zoo. 

     

    Relations between the countries have been mired by disputes over Japan’s wartime aggression and the dispute over ownership of gas fields in the East China Sea.

     

    But Japan counts on China as its top commercial partner, while Beijing is eager to ease regional friction as it seeks a greater global role.

     

    "China and Japan have no other way but to take the path of peace, friendship and cooperation as neighbors and countries with significant influence to Asia and the world," Hu told a joint press conference with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

     

    In a joint statement, Hu and Fukuda said they "confirmed that the two nations are cooperative partners, not threats, to each other" and share responsibilities "for the worlds peace and development in the 21st century."

     

    It called for the two countries leaders to hold summits once a year alternating between Japan and China and pledged cooperation on fighting global warming.

     

    In a striking contrast to many previous meetings between the countries, the joint statement made no direct reference to Japan’s invasion of China before World War II.

     

    China refused all high-level contact with Japan for five years until 2006 in anger at then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumis annual visits to a Tokyo shrine that venerates Japanese war dead including war criminals.

     

    The only other Chinese president to visit Tokyo was Jiang Zemin in 1998. He sparked anger in Japan by pressing for a stronger apology over the past and criticizing Japan at a public banquet with Emperor Akihito.

     

    On Wednesday, Emperor Akihito and other members of the imperial family gave Hu a red-carpet welcome and honor guard at their sprawling palace in central Tokyo.

     

    The joint statement said that China "takes a positive view of the more than 60 years since the war during which Japan has developed into a peaceful state and contributed by peaceful means to the world’s peace and stability." It did not touch on the thorny territorial dispute over lucrative gas fields in the East China Sea.

     

    But Fukuda said the two countries believed "a solution is in sight." "We agreed to solve the issue as soon as possible," Fukuda told reporters.

     

    Hu also said that the two sides were "beginning to see the larger picture in solving this issue."

     

    The trip to Japan is Hu’s first overseas since China clamped down on major protests in Tibet in March, triggering an international uproar.

     

    Fukuda said he pressed Hu to address international concerns by continuing talks reopened this week with representatives of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader. "I requested that China eliminate the concerns of the international community by continuing the talks and improving the situation," Fukuda said.

     

    Fukuda, 71, is hoping that the visit will improve his government’s approval ratings, which have tumbled to below 20 percent.

     

    In one move that is likely to please the public, Hu agreed to lend Japan two pandas, a male and a female, for Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo to replace the beloved Ling Ling, who died last week.

     

    China has long pursued "panda diplomacy," lending or gifting the cuddly but endangered bears as a way to improve relations.

     

    Joseph Cheng, a professor at the City University of Hong Kong, said that both Fukuda and Hu were weak -- the Japanese leader from domestic issues and Hu due to the Tibet uproar.

     

    "So both find it difficult to make major concessions on issues like the gas fields," Cheng said. "Instead, they have to rely on more symbolic issues like pandas," he said.

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