• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Tuesday invited Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to visit Japan, but Wen again declined to immediately take up the offer.

Wen said that while it is important that Japan and Chinese leaders exchange mutual visits, the two nations must forge a “good atmosphere” first, without elaborating, according to Japanese officials. Wen also said he hopes to visit Japan and asked Koizumi to visit China “at an appropriate time,” they said.

Wen made similar remarks to Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi in April when she handed him an invitation from Koizumi to visit Japan.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of two days of summits involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its dialogue partners, Japan, China and South Korea.

Wen said the two nations must correctly deal with history, although he did not bring up Koizumi’s visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, where convicted war criminals are enshrined along with the nation’s war dead.

Koizumi’s repeated visits to the Shinto shrine have prevented him from visiting China since the new Chinese leadership was launched in March.

Wen said he “understands” Tokyo’s concerns over the abductions of Japanese nationals to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. He said Beijing hopes Japan and North Korea will resolve the issue appropriately.

Koizumi responded that he expects China to play a role in comprehensively resolving disputes with North Korea over its nuclear weapons development, missile programs and the abductions.

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