BEIJING (Kyodo) Tokyo hopes to cooperate with Beijing to prevent the swine flu epidemic from spreading further and also wants to help the world overcome the economic crisis, Prime Minister Taro Aso told Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday, according to China’s state-run media.

“Japan wants to work together with China to prevent the swine flu epidemic from spreading further,” China Central Television reported.

The recent deadly swine-avian-human flu virus has emerged as a topic for the countries’ leaders, after more than 150 people have died in Mexico from the malady, which has spread to other areas, reportedly killing an infant in Texas as well.

The World Health Organization raised its alert level Monday to Phase 4, which means human-to-human transmission of the virus can cause community-level outbreaks.

Aso also said Japan and China should “strengthen coordination” to contribute to a global economic recovery, according to the CCTV report.

Wen, for his part, reminded Japan about the sensitivity of issues related to history at their talks in Beijing. Last week Aso drew China’s ire by sending an offering to Tokyo’s war-related Yasukuni Shrine.

Thorny bilateral issues, including Aso’s offering to Yasukuni Shrine, raised tensions between the two countries somewhat before his arrival in Beijing.

The shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, as well as Class-A war criminals, is seen by Tokyo’s neighbors as a symbol of Japan’s militarist past. It has been a source of discord in relations between Tokyo and Beijing.

Wen told Aso that the history issue is “very sensitive” and expressed hope that Japan will “adhere to agreements and appropriately deal” with the matter, according to CCTV.

Aso replied that Japan’s position has not changed from the view expressed in a landmark 1995 statement by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who apologized and expressed remorse for Japan’s wartime conquest, atrocities and colonial occupation.

“Bilateral relations have improved and developed through both sides’ joint efforts,” Wen said.

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