President Hu looks forward to a ‘warm spring’

On eve of summit talks, visiting Chinese president calls for stronger ties with Japan

Kyodo News

Chinese President Hu Jintao called for bolstered trust and cooperation with Japan as he arrived in the country Tuesday for the first visit by a Chinese head of state in a decade.

Hu, who arrived on a special Air China flight, is scheduled to hold summit talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on Wednesday, after a meeting with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko earlier that day.

“The development of long-term stable and good neighborly friendship between China and Japan is in the fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples,” Hu said in a statement upon arrival at Tokyo’s Haneda airport. “I hope that during this visit, we can increase mutual trust, strengthen friendship, deepen cooperation, plan the future and open the way for a new stage of overall development in the Sino-Japanese strategic, mutually beneficial relationship.”

Hu met with Fukuda for an informal dinner Tuesday at a Tokyo restaurant known for its links with Sun Yat-sen, China’s revolutionary hero, before the start of his official schedule with a welcoming ceremony on Wednesday morning.

The wife of the owner of the restaurant inside Hibiya Park is a descendant of Shokichi Umeya, a Japanese figure known for financially supporting Sun. Sun himself had visited the restaurant during his exile in Japan in the early 20th century.

The Chinese president said earlier this week he hopes the five-day visit — the longest single bilateral trip for Hu since assuming his post — would herald a “warm spring” in relations with Japan.

The visit follows what was dubbed an “ice-breaking” visit to China in 2006 by then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and an “ice-thawing” trip to Japan last year by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Combined with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s visit to China in December, the exchanges helped improve relations that had been chilly for years due to differences over the interpretation of Japan’s wartime militarism and its invasion of China.

After their summit talks, Hu and Fukuda expected to issue a joint document on the principles of bilateral relations, the fourth landmark paper between the two countries, following those issued in 1972, 1978 and 1998.

They are also scheduled to issue a joint statement on global warming in which China is expected to say it will consider measures to help meet the Japanese-proposed goal to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Among festering problems that the two leaders are expected to touch on, but are unlikely to resolve, are a row over gas exploration rights in the East China Sea and a dispute over food-poisoning cases triggered by Chinese-made frozen meat dumplings.

Tibet is also a topic on which the two countries differ, though the talks on Sunday between Chinese government officials and envoys of the Dalai Lama will likely ease Japanese pressure on China to peacefully resolve the issue.

The Chinese president is also to give a speech at Waseda University in Tokyo, visit a Chinese school in Yokohama and tour historic sites in Nara, western Japan.