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Staff writer

As part of its efforts to develop stable and friendly relations with China in the 21st century, Japan will partially fund a multibillion-yen youth center in Beijing for students interested in Japan, government sources said Monday.

The decision to extend the grant-in-aid will be announced in Tokyo next week when Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi meets with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, the sources said.

Jiang is to arrive Nov. 25 in the first-ever visit by a Chinese head of state, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1978 Sino-Japanese peace and friendship treaty. According to the sources, Obuchi will express to Jiang a strong desire to promote youth exchanges, which are viewed as essential for securing stable and friendly ties, and also make an offer to invite more Chinese youths to study in Japan, the sources said.

The details of the project, including the exact amount of aid money, have yet to be worked out. The planned center will advise Chinese youths who wish to study or have studied in Japan, on which schools they can attend and which courses of study are available to them there. It will also serve as a gathering place for youths and help them keep abreast of the latest developments in Japanese society, the sources said. “We hope to make as many Chinese youths as possible supporters of Japan, especially those who have studied in Japan,” one of the government sources said.

Sino-Japanese relations have often soured because of disputes stemming from Japan’s past aggressions in mainland China. In a joint statement to be issued during Jiang’s forthcoming Japan visit, Beijing wants Japan to, among other things, give a clearer apology for its past misdeeds.

While Beijing seems to want to put more of a focus on history and the issue of Taiwan in the planned document, Tokyo hopes to make it a more future-oriented one that emphasizes the need for cooperation in addressing a wide range of regional and global tasks.

At present about 20,000 Chinese are studying in Japan, accounting for roughly 40 percent of all foreign students. But after rising sharply in the 1980s, that number has largely leveled off, according to government sources.

The reason for the trend may be that more Chinese youths have opted to work in their own country amid robust economic growth, the sources speculated.

The sources say the plan for the youth center is the fourth political project funded by grants-in-aid unveiled by a Japanese prime minister.

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