Yang visits Yokohama, holds pre-Hu meetings

by Reiji Yoshida

YOKOHAMA — Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visited a Chinese school in Yokohama and met the mayor and the governor of Kanagawa Prefecture on Saturday in an attempt to smoothen bilateral ties ahead of the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao next month.

The school, which holds classes in Japanese, Chinese and English for children from kindergarten to junior high school, welcomed Yang with a lion dance and greetings from about 450 students.

“I’m convinced that (the children) will act as a bridge for a good-neighbor, friendly relationship,” Yang told Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakada and Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa at a hotel after the visit.

Yang is here to hold talks with Japanese officials and pave the way for the Hu’s high-profile visit.

Japanese diplomats are eager to make Hu’s visit a success because Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is known as an advocate of forming friendly ties with other Asian countries. But Beijing’s crackdown on protests in Tibet and lingering fears of the food-poisoning cases caused by tainted frozen dumplings imported from China are casting a shadow over Hu’s visit.

Yang visited Yokohama because of the city’s deep and long-lasting relationship with China. As the sister city of Shanghai, Yokohama hosts Japan’s largest Chinatown, a district that attracts millions of tourists from across the nation and contributes heavily to the local economy.

“Chinatown is probably the most precious place for the citizens of Yokohama,” Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakada told Yang before their luncheon at the hotel. Kanagawa Gov. Matsuzawa also pointed out that Yokohama, Kamakura and Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture are major attractions for tourists from China.