The government played up on Monday the importance of Saturday’s meeting between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chinese President Hu Jintao, where the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to salvage relations.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told a news conference, “It was very significant” that Koizumi and Hu agreed to work on improving ties which have been seriously soured in the wake of anti-Japan rallies in China.

The top government spokesman also said it is “important” that the two countries strengthen their alliance over various issues as it would be of benefit to the international community.

Foreign Ministry Press Secretary Hatsuhisa Takashima told a separate news conference that the Koizumi-Hu talks constituted “the first step toward bringing things back on track” to improve bilateral relations between the two countries.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Takashima also said Japan would work hard on enlisting support from China for Japan’s bid to win a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Takashima said Japan did not interpret recent remarks made by Premier Wen Jiabao to mean China was clearly opposed to the Japan’s bid to win a permanent seat.

Wen suggested earlier this month in India that it is hard for China to back Japan’s bid, reportedly saying only a country that respects history, takes responsibility for its past and wins over the trust of people in Asia and the world at large can take on greater responsibility in the international community.

Takashima indicated Monday that Japan was not discouraged by Wen’s comments from trying to appeal for China’s support for the bid as Wen did not specify the country he had in mind.

Anti-Japan rally in L.A.

LOS ANGELES (Kyodo) About 1,000 people including Chinese- and Korean-Americans marched through central Los Angeles on Sunday for an anti-Japan demonstration.

They gathered in front of City Hall at 10 a.m. and moved toward the Japanese Consulate around 1 km away.

The demonstrators held signs demanding that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stop visiting Yasukuni Shrine.

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