• Kyodo

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Chinese President Jiang Zemin expressed strong support Sunday for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s planned visit to North Korea on Sept. 17, Japanese officials said.

During a meeting with visiting Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, Jiang voiced high expectations for Koizumi’s visit to Pyongyang for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the officials said.

“We strongly support it,” Jiang was quoted as saying. “We expect the trip to produce results.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan voiced a similar view in a separate meeting with Kawaguchi, telling her that China supports the normalization of Japan-North Korea relations.

But Jiang criticized Koizumi for visiting Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, urging him to reflect on Japan’s history and warning against failing to learn lessons from the past, the officials said.

Sino-Japanese relations have slumped since China reacted angrily to Koizumi’s April 21 visit to the Shinto shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals along with the nation’s war dead.

Tang told Kawaguchi that North Korea is attaching unusually strong importance to Koizumi’s visit to Pyongyang, the officials said.

In her meetings with Tang and Jiang, Kawaguchi explained the process through which the Japanese and North Korean governments agreed on Koizumi’s visit, the Japanese officials said.

Kawaguchi arrived in Beijing on Sunday afternoon as part of a three-day visit to hold talks with Chinese leaders on issues including the upcoming Koizumi-Kim talks.

Kawaguchi and Tang also agreed on ways to promote youth exchanges.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations between Japan and China.

Jiang hailed Kawaguchi’s trip as a timely one, and Kawaguchi responded that she had been looking forward to visiting China, the officials said. She stressed to Tang the importance of efforts by surrounding countries to maintain peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

The two foreign ministers also discussed steps to prevent a recurrence of the diplomatic spat that followed the forcible removal of North Korean asylum seekers from a Japanese consulate in China, as well as Japan’s attempt to salvage of a suspected North Korean spy ship that sank in the East China Sea in December after a gunbattle.

On Monday, Kawaguchi was to meet with Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen and Zhao Qizheng, director of the Information Office of China’s State Council.

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