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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hu's offer to visit at 'appropriate time' welcomed


Staff writer

The government on Monday welcomed Chinese President Hu Jintao's comments over the weekend that he would like to visit Japan at an appropriate time if political relations improve.

It was the first time Hu referred to a possible visit since taking office in March 2003.

The comment, made during a meeting Saturday with Japanese Ambassador Yuji Miyamoto, is yet another sign of bilateral detente at a time when ties have been frigid due in part to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's yearly visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which is seen by other parts of Asia as a symbol of the country's wartime militarism.

"We basically take the remark positively, as it shows China regards the relationship with Japan seriously," Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe told a regular news conference Monday morning.

"The Japan-China relationship is one of the most important bilateral ties for both of us," he added. "It is important to promote dialogue in every sector between China and Japan."

During his meeting with Miyamoto, Hu was quoted as saying, "The relationship between Japan and China is facing a difficult stage. This is something that we would not like to see."

The Chinese leader refrained from mentioning specific thorny issues, including Yasukuni Shrine.

The remarks are the latest in a string of indications that the frosty relations between the two Asian giants is thawing.

"Japan holds the door open all the time," Koizumi said later in the day. "Even if the situation does not improve, Japan will have dialogue with China."

Hu's comments come after Foreign Minister Taro Aso and his Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing, agreed last month in Qatar to promote bilateral exchanges in economic, defense and other areas. It was the first time in about a year that the foreign ministers of the two countries met.

Last week, the government said it will extend 74 billion yen to Beijing, lifting its freeze on low-interest yen loans for the fiscal year that ended March 31.

At the same time, however, the conditional tone of Hu's remark was taken as an attempt to keep further visits by Koizumi to Yasukuni.

There has been speculation that Koizumi will make another visit Aug. 15.



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The Japan Times

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