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Sunday, May 8, 2005

Machimura-Li talks achieve little progress

Staff writer

KYOTO -- The Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers met Saturday night, but they failed to make major progress on outstanding issues of contention.

On the front burner were Japanese demands for an apology and compensation for demonstrations in China that damaged Japanese diplomatic missions, and Chinese anger over Japan's history textbooks and visits by the prime minister to Yasukuni Shrine.

Neither side backed down.

Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and his counterpart, Li Zhaoxing, met for an hour and a half but agreed only that further discussions on improving bilateral relations is necessary.

As one step toward better relations, Japan will engage in "Aichi Expo diplomacy" by extending an invitation to Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi, who will come to Japan to visit the expo on May 19. She will be extended an official invitation as a guest of the Japanese government, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hatsuhasa Takashima said.

The two foreign ministers decided to launch a joint committee to study historical issues, with each side able to choose who participates, Takashima said.

Machimura and Li agreed that the structure of the joint group, and the participants, would be decided by the end of the year.

Machimura raised the issue of an apology and compensation for the recent damage to the embassy in Beijing and several consulates during anti-Japan demonstrations. However, Li did not offer either, Takashima said.

Li brought up Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine, but it was not a direct request to halt the visits, he added.

The Chinese side was not available for comment.

In a separate meeting, the foreign ministers of Japan, South Korea and China agreed to study the economic effects of a possible trilateral free-trade area, and to look into ways to address concerns investors would have over the legal framework of each country.

The agreement comes as differences remain between the three countries over how best to achieve further economic integration.

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The Japan Times

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