04/12/2007, 00.00
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Wen Jiabao in Tokyo: friendship, economics and some silence

The premier underscores the common will for friendship and collaboration, which is more important than memories of war. Abe also discusses Japanese aspirations to the UN Security Council and gas reserves in the East China Sea. Economic ties increase.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Sweeping declarations of friendship and goodwill were made today by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, during the second of a three day visit to Japan.  Both states have avoided unresolved questions in an apparent desire to concentrate on political and economic ties,   of mutual advantage. 

Wen, making the first address to the Japanese parliament, the Diet, urged the Asian powers to resolve their disputes peacefully, particularly questions pertaining to the war atrocities carried out by Japan. Wen, laid the blame for Japan’s invasion and 1931-1945 occupation of China − still a bitter memory for many Chinese − on the shoulders of a “limited number of wartime leaders”, adding that “The general Japanese public were also victims of the war”. He avoided specific references, such as the Japanese Yasukuni temple were, together with the war dead, some recognised war criminals are honoured.  The friendship building operation began in the early morning, when sporting black sportswear bearing logos for next year’s Beijing Olympics, the 64-year-old Mr Wen jogged around a Tokyo park, chatted with members of the public.

Japan aspires to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, China; the only Asian nation with veto power, in 2005 scuttled the bid, saying Tokyo had not atoned for its past atrocities.

Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Noriyuki Shikata said Mr Abe wanted to start early consultations with China before completing its proposal. Japan is in competition with India, Germany and Brazil, who also desire a permanent seat. 

Wen stopped short of supporting the Security Council bid, saying, “China is prepared to improve bilateral understanding by strengthening dialogue” and that he “understands Japan’s desire to have a fuller role”.

Regarding the harvesting of gas reserves in the East China Seas (estimated to be over 200 billion cubic meters); contested by both states, after their meeting yesterday Wen and Abe said in a statement they “will speed up the process of discussions and seek to report specific measures for joint development to the leaders of the two countries by autumn”. Japan and China disagree over the boundary between their exclusive marine economic zones, and Japan objects to Chinese development of gas fields near the border.  Although the fields are in an area not under dispute, Tokyo fears the drilling operations could drain gas from its side by tapping into geological structures that stretch into that area.  China's CNOOC Ltd confirmed for the first time yesterday that it had begun producing gas at a field in the East China Sea.  The state-controlled company said in its 2006 annual report it was pumping oil and gas at the Tianwaitian field (at 500,000 cubic metres a day). It is also ready to begin producing from the nearby and larger Chunxiao field as soon as Beijing gives it the go-ahead, at an annual rate of 600 million cubic metres.

Including Hong Kong, China is Japan's No. 1 trading partner with total trade exceeding 9 billion last year. Tokyo wants to use the Chinese economic work force for its industries and sell its products on the Chinese market, while Beijing needs foreign investment, above all from Japanese industries that use environment friendly technology.  Japan now plans to ship 25 tonnes of quality rice to China, the world's No 1 market, by June after the two nations signed an accord ending a trade dispute that had halted rice exports since 2003.

Over 600 industrial managers from both States met on the sidelines of the visit. (PB)


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