05/07/2008, 00.00
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An historic agreement for regular meetings between Beijing and Tokyo

After the meeting between president Hu and prime minister Fukuda, a commitment has been announced to regular meetings at the highest level. There are no agreements on the most controversial points, but instead the willingness to increase the occasions of collaboration and dialogue. Hu protested by a few thousand pro-Tibet demonstrators.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - An historic agreement between China and Japan, during today's meeting in Tokyo between president Hu Jintao and prime minister Yasuo Fukuda: regular meetings will be established, including an annual summit.  In the joint declaration, the two nations commit themselves to "develop ways for regular exchanges, with one leader visiting the other in principle every year".  This commitment is intended to put an end to decades of problematic relations, especially because of the memory of wartime conflicts and the competition over gas in the East China Sea.

President Hu Jintao commented that relations are at a "new starting point".  This "declaration of intent" is very important in part because it is taking place despite the fact that there are still many unresolved problems.  For his part, prime minister Yasuo Fukuda added that there is the common desire to resolve "the long pending issue of developing resources in the East China Sea", and significant progress on this issue. The two countries have already held 11 rounds of talks over the gas deposits there.

Now analysts are waiting to see how, beyond the declarations of intent, both this and other problems will be faced, such as China's military spending (which reached 416 billion yuan in 2008, +17.6% compared to 2007), and the safety of Chinese food products (after a shipment of Chinese dumplings sickened a number of Japanese in January, and raised widespread public alarm, with reciprocal accusations over the cause of the contamination).  But as Huang Dahui, an analyst at Renmin University in Beijing, observes, "this visit isn't about solving any of [these issues] now. It will be about preventing them dragging down relations and encouraging the right atmosphere so they can be solved later".

Tokyo wants Chinese support to obtain a permanent seat on the UN security council, while Beijing wants Japan to take a public position against the independence of Taiwan.  The two leaders also signed minor agreements on global warming and on trade and business matters.

Fukuda also urged Hu to seek a solution to the Tibetan question, and "rated highly" the resumption of talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama. But Hu replied that the Dalai Lama must stop "acting to separate the homeland" and "inciting violent acts".  He nonetheless confirmed the desire for "making contact” in the "hope that the contact will produce positive results".  The Tibetan question nonetheless provoked some peaceful demonstrations by thousands of Japanese and Tibetans, against the repression.  The police kept the demonstrators far from Hu and from the Chinese embassy.  But more than 300 demonstrators gathered yesterday evening outside of Hibiya Park, where Fukuda hosted Hu for an informal dinner.  The demonstrators were calling for the release of Tibetans arrested over the recent protests.

Earlier, Hu offered Japan two giant pandas, a token of good and lasting relations.  They will replace the panda Ling Ling, given by Beijing in 1992.  The animal died last week at the Ueno zoo in Tokyo, where it was a favourite of visitors. (PB)

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