Visiting Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji said Monday that Japan needs to admit its wartime aggression and be careful not to repeat the same mistake.

However, he toned down his earlier comment that Japan has made no official apology to China.

“We need to directly look at history without having it fade away or hiding it, then we can move forward to the future,” Zhu told a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.

Asked about his stance on history, Zhu said that China has always separated Japan’s militarism from its ordinary citizens and reiterated that he believes the Japanese people were also victims of militarism. “Of course, we would not hold the Japanese people responsible for wartime aggression on China,” Zhu said.

In a television program Saturday, Zhu said Japan has never officially apologized for its wartime aggression in any official document. He further expressed dissatisfaction that Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in his 1995 government statement offered Japan’s apologies to the “Asian people” but did not directly mention China.

However, he told Monday’s press conference: “China has always highly valued the 1995 statement.

“Our goal is not to demand an apology. Our goal is to deepen our friendship by learning from history.”

Improving the bilateral relationship — which has not been easy due to sour Japanese sentiment toward China — was a major purpose of Zhu’s six-day visit, which ends today.

The premier said he was able to deepen understanding with both political and business leaders, while conversations with Japanese citizens on the television program were “a very special experience.”

He said that boosting youth exchange between the two countries is critical for enhancing bilateral ties, and he made repeated calls for Japan to invest in China’s development of its western interior.

Japan’s investment in information technology-related areas is especially important to the project, he said, noting that the number of mobile telephones in China is expected to double in a few years.

However, he admitted that “some problems remain” with regards to China’s investment environment, which is viewed as unstable in the eyes of Japanese businesses.

But he added that such problems as the recent default by China’s Hainan International Trust & Investment Corp. on its samurai yen-denominated bonds was a unique case that stemmed from China’s economic bubble around 1993. “My advice to Japanese firms is to be careful in selecting a business partner in China,” he said.

Although many trust firms were set up by regional governments, the central Chinese government will guarantee the interest of Japanese creditors if they go bankrupt, Zhu said.

On the Taiwan issue, he reiterated China’s stance that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China, and warned against former President Lee Teng-hui’s visit to Japan. Lee is said to be interested in visiting Japan.

No more apologies

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hidenao Nakagawa said Monday that Japan has no plans to make any further written apologies to China for its brutal wartime aggression.

Nakagawa made the comment in response to Saturday’s remarks by visiting Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji, who said Tokyo has never apologized in an official document to the Chinese people.

“The government is not considering issuing another apology in writing,” Nakagawa told a regular news conference. He said Japan has repeatedly expressed remorse and apologized to China.

In a separate news conference, Kazuhiko Koshikawa, deputy press secretary to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, said, “I don’t know why (Zhu) mentioned (the issue).”

During a talk show with Japanese citizens on a TBS television program Saturday, Zhu said an official statement in 1995 by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, in which Japan expressed “deep remorse and heartfelt apology,” does not qualify as an apology to the Chinese as it was directed in general terms to the people of Asia.

The apology issue has often troubled Sino-Japanese relations. During his November 1998 visit to Tokyo, Chinese President Jiang Zemin repeatedly criticized Japan for failing to atone for its wartime atrocities.

In his talks Friday with Mori, Zhu took a more conciliatory posture than did Jiang, noting that the Japanese people were also victims of Japan’s wartime militarism.

Maglev ‘quite good’

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji took a ride Monday in Tsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture, on the experimental magnetically levitated high-speed train, getting a taste of traveling at 452 kph.

“It was quite good,” Zhu said after the test ride, noting that he did not feel dizzy, as he did during a similar ride on Germany’s maglev train. He said, however, that the noise inside the tunnel on the test track was a little loud and he felt more vibration.

Zhu’s request for his first ride on a Japanese maglev train, and later on a bullet train to Kobe, is to study the possibilities of China using Japanese technology in the planned construction of a high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai.

The Yamanashi maglev train is the world’s fastest, with a top speed of 552 kph.

China is currently debating whether to adopt a conventional track system or the maglev system for the railway project, which is to begin during China’s 10th five-year development plan that runs until 2005.

Ahead of his six-day official visit to Japan that started Thursday, Zhu had stressed that China has yet to decide which technologies and methods will be adopted to build the Beijing-Shanghai link.

Japan has been trying to sell China its shinkansen technology, while Germany wants to provide its maglev technology. Germany was seen as a strong candidate following Zhu’s visit to that country in June.

Zhu told reporters after the ride that Japan stands a chance, but it first has to compete, mainly against Germany.

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