04/28/2009, 00.00
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Japanese prime minister flies to China tomorrow, to discuss economy, swine flu

Talks are also scheduled to cover the North Korean nuclear issue, but especially the search for joint measures against the economic crisis. Beijing has decided to "overlook" Taro Aso's visit in recent days to the Yasukuni temple, where some of the dead commemorated are war criminals.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - There is great anticipation surrounding the visit to China by Japanese prime minister Taro Aso, who is scheduled to meet with prime minister Wen Jiabao tomorrow, and president Hu Jintao the following day. They will talk about the economic crisis, but also about the latest emergencies, like the swine flu and the new missile escalation by North Korea.

The meeting between the second and third largest economies in the world is seen as important by all, in the search for joint measures against the global crisis. Both countries have so far reacted with robust state financing in favor of domestic activity, but many hope that they can identify further means for economic recovery.

The encounter comes immediately after the outbreak of swine flu, against which countries in the region are adopting drastic prevention measures.

Moreover, on April 5 North Korea launched a rocket that Japan, the United States, and South Korea consider a test for ballistic missiles. China, one of Pyongyang's main allies, could convince Korea to return to the negotiating table in order to discuss its weapons and nuclear programs.

Tokyo has also criticized China for its increased military spending, which Beijing justifies by saying that it has purely defensive purposes.

The encounter is believed to be so important that Beijing has preferred to "overlook" Taro's visit to the Yasukuni temple on April 21. The temple is dedicated to the Japanese war dead. China and South Korea charge that this includes some recognized war criminals, responsible for crimes against these countries. In recent years, periodic visits to the temple by former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi always brought criticism from Beijing, including formal protests and the cancellation of scheduled meetings between members of the respective governments. The next Japanese prime ministers avoided these visits, and contacts between the two countries have greatly improved since then.

This time, instead, Beijing limited itself to criticizing Taro, without canceling the visit.

Sun Cheng, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, observes that "by dealing with this [Yasukuni] so quickly, China has indicated that it's not going to allow this issue to damage relations when we're all most concerned above all about the financial crisis."

it is proof that Beijing is more interested in collaboration than fostering rivalry, and does not want to take "a step backward" in bilateral relations. China is Japan's leading trade partner and the second largest market for its exports after the United States. Japan needs to sell its goods in China in order to overcome the worst recession in 60 years, and China needs Japanese investment.

(In the photo: Japanese parliamentarians visiting the Yasukuni temple)

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