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Friday, April 13, 2007

Wen gives historic, upbeat Diet speech

Premier asks both nations to reconcile

Staff writer

In a landmark speech to the Diet on Thursday, visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao recognized Japan's apologies for its aggression in Asia and called on the people of both nations to reconcile and cooperate in the future.

In the first speech ever given by a Chinese premier to the Diet, Wen emphasized the economic interdependency of the countries, saying Japan and China are "mutually complementary" to each other and to a significant extent.

The historic, 35-minute speech was televised live in both Japan and China, giving Wen an opportunity to make his appeal for a bilateral thaw to both peoples simultaneously.

"The Japanese government and Japanese leaders have expressed their stance on history issues many times, publicly admitted aggression, and expressed deep soul-searching and apology for the victimized countries," Wen told lawmakers in the packed main hall of the House of Representatives. "The Chinese government and people actively appreciate this."

But Wen quickly added that he strongly wants Japan to express those historical stances "with actual actions." This was apparently a suggestion that Japanese leaders stop taking provocative actions linked to war-related issues.

As Wen pointed out, Japanese leaders, including former Prime Ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Tomiichi Murayama, have repeatedly extended official apologies for Japan's aggression and wartime atrocities. Some of those apologies even covered the "comfort women," who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army.

Wen's speech was refreshing because of the seriousness of its scope, the mention of the apologies, and the clear call for reconciliation and cooperation, said Keio professor Tomoyuki Kojima, a noted China expert.

"The speech was very interesting." he said. "(Wen) must have made the speech with very important and clear purposes."

Kojima said Wen was trying to stress to the Chinese people the importance of their economic relationship with Japan and the need to drop radical anti-Japanese sentiments. To the Japanese, Wen was probably trying to impress that China's stance toward Japan has changed and that China needs Japan's cooperation, he said.

Indeed, Wen thanked Japan for its "support and assistance" in modernizing China to this point and said the "Chinese people will never forget it."

He also frankly admitted that China is still a developing country and faces many serious problems.

"China has a large population, its foundation is weak and there has been unbalance in its development," Wen told the Diet. "China is still a developing country. There is still a long way to go to realize modernization."

However, Mineo Nakajima, a China expert and president of Akita International University, said Wen's comments about Japan's responsibility for the war were still within the parameters of the official views of the Chinese government.

Nakajima said China wants to avoid diplomatic problems with Japan because it will need to focus on internal issues in the coming years, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, and Taiwan-related issues, Nakajima said.

Wen also defended China's position on Taiwan, which Beijing refers to as a renegade province. China has not ruled out military action against the island during the speech.

"We will make our utmost efforts seeking a peaceful solution of the Taiwan issue," Wen said. "But we will never tolerate Taiwan's becoming independent.

"We hope Japan will recognize the high sensitivity of the Taiwan issue, keep their promises and cautiously handle this issue," he said.

Wen said Japan's "war of aggression" in China killed numerous Chinese people, caused horrific damage and left them with "scars and agony that cannot be explained with words." But he also discussed hardships of ordinary Japanese who were left behind in China after Japan's defeat.

"Only a handful of militarists should be held responsible for (Japan's) war of aggression, and ordinary Japanese people were also victims," Wen said. "The Chinese people must get along with the Japanese people."

Highlights of speech

Following are key points in Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's Thursday speech to the Diet:

* I hope my visit to Japan will help melt the ice between China and Japan. The objective is to boost friendship and cooperation between the two nations.

* The war left indescribable scars and pain in Chinese people's hearts, and also caused enormous suffering and pain to the Japanese people.

* Only a handful of militarists should take the blame for the war. Ordinary Japanese were also victims of the war.

* The Chinese government and people want ties that look to the future, with history as a mirror.

* Japan formally admitted to wartime aggression and expressed deep remorse and apology, and the Chinese government and people give high credit to Japan for it.

* China wishes Japan to demonstrate its remorse and apology with concrete actions.

* China will not forget Japan's assistance and support as the country reformed and modernized.

* China will not tolerate Taiwanese independence. China wants Japan to recognize the sensitivity of the Taiwan issue and deal with it cautiously.

* Both countries should be proactive in advancing dialogue on gas exploration in the East China Sea, setting aside their disputes and taking substantial steps toward a peaceful solution.

* China sees the economic growth of both countries not as a threat but an opportunity for both sides.

* China understands Japan's wish to play a larger role in the international community. China is ready to increase dialogue about United Nations Security Council reforms.

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The Japan Times

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