Foreign and Military Affairs

Asian giants meet for first time since thaw

Updated: 2011-05-23 07:35

By Wang Chenyan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The leaders of the governments of China and Japan met on Sunday morning in Tokyo for their first formal talks since an incident in which a Chinese fishing boat collided with Japanese patrol ships in September 2010.

At the time, the incident sparked a rise in tension and stalled high-level dialogue between the nations.

Sunday's meeting involving Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan at Akasaka Palace, Japan's State Guesthouse, lasted for about an hour and 15 minutes.

Both leaders are understood to have taken part in an in-depth exchange of views about how to improve bilateral ties and enhance cooperation for the nations' mutual benefit.

Wen emphasized the need for the two neighbors to continue with the current momentum of stable development to lay a good foundation for the 40th anniversary of the normalization of Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations in 2012.

Kan agreed on the need to continue with high-level talks and expressed his willingness to deepen the strategic relationship of mutual benefit. Kan also said he plans to visit China at an appropriate time this year.

Wen's visit to Japan for the fourth three-way summit, which also involved the Republic of Korea (ROK), came at a time when Japan is going through one of its worst economic crises since World War II and in the aftermath of tension between the nations.

"Japan actually sent out signals to ease tensions with China at the end of last year and the ice has gradually melted," said Zhou Yongsheng, a professor of Japanese studies at the China Foreign Affairs University.

Zhou told China Daily the two Asian giants had come to a turning point in their simmering rivalry.

"Moreover, China's assistance after Japan's earthquake in March and the fourth trilateral summit created opportunities for a thaw in diplomatic relations."

Ahead of the trilateral summit and meetings with the leaders of Japan and the ROK, Wen traveled to the area near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and met victims of the disaster on Saturday.

Wen's drawing of a smiling face and his writing of a message for one family no doubt impressed some people but the senior leader took more to Japan than a show of support for China's quake-hit neighbor.

During talks with Kan, he said China will exclude Yamanashi and Yamagata prefectures from import restrictions on agricultural products, cutting the number of Japanese prefectures on the list from 12 to 10.

The premier also invited 500 students from the quake-hit area to visit China and promised to dispatch a tourism mission to Japan comprised of 100 officials and the presidents of travel agencies.

Such concrete steps, which are being viewed by Japan's media as goodwill gestures, were strongly desired by the Japanese government, which has battled mounting problems since the earthquake struck the northeast coast in March.

The Daily Yomiuri, Japan's second-largest English-language newspaper, wrote that Kan had sought to improve ties with China through reconstruction during the summit.

Observers in China have also interpreted Wen's visit as "highly symbolic" and noted that it has considerable political significance.

"The face-to-face formal talks between the two senior leaders shows the frosty Sino-Japanese relations have gone and there has been a full recovery," said Yang Bojiang, a professor at the University of International Relations in Beijing.

Wu Jiao and Li Lianxing contributed to this story.


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