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Staff writerJapan will provide up to $1 million in financial aid to China to conserve and restore innumerous cultural relics that will be submerged by the controversial Three Gorges dam project, government sources said Oct. 14.The assistance will be funneled to Beijing through a special cultural assets-preservation fund within UNESCO, the sources said. The decision may be formally announced when Premier Li Peng visits Tokyo in the middle of next month as part of events marking the 25th anniversary this year of normalized Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations, the sources said.During his six-day official visit starting Nov. 11, Li will meet Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to discuss bilateral as well as international issues. Hashimoto made his first official visit to Beijing as prime minister in early September, and President Jiang Zemin is expected in Tokyo next spring.Hashimoto and Jiang, meeting last November on the sidelines of the annual summit of the 18-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the Philippines, agreed to the exchanges to help repair bilateral relations that had degraded to their lowest point since Tokyo and Beijing established ties in 1972. The deterioration was caused by disputes over such matters as the Japan-U.S. joint security declaration, repeated Chinese nuclear tests and competing sovereignty claims to the Senkaku Islands, which are called the Diaoyu Islands by China, in the East China Sea.The massive Three Gorges dam project on the Yangtze River, estimated by Beijing to run up a $24 billion price tag, has raised concerns abroad over the environmental damage it will incur and possible human-rights violations in moving residents from areas that will be flooded.The project in the historic Three Gorges region of central China, one of the world’s largest infrastructure projects, is also expected to submerge at least eight hundred cultural relics, including the Bai He Liang, a rock bed on which water levels from different time periods are marked with poetry.In his meeting with Li last month in Beijing, Hashimoto expressed Japan’s willingness to cooperate with the conservation and restoration of the threatened cultural relics. Li reportedly expressed appreciation for the offer. Afterward, the Japanese government began considering specific measures.

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