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Prime Minister Taro Aso met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing on Wednesday and Thursday. His visit to China came after he made an offering to Yasukuni Shrine, Japan’s war shrine. Although the Chinese side took up this sensitive issue, it managed to restrain itself and both sides concentrated on more pressing issues.

“Swine flu,” officially known as influenza A(H1N1), topped the agenda now that infections have been confirmed in more than 10 countries. The leaders agreed to cooperate to prevent the spread of the influenza, which is at risk of becoming a pandemic now that human-to-human transmission has been confirmed. They also agreed to cooperate closely for early resumption of the six-party talks aimed at the denuclearization of North Korea.

Despite agreeing to making efforts to resume the six-party talks, both Mr. Hu and Mr. Wen called for a coolheaded approach to North Korea. China, which has close ties with North Korea, should exert its influence to persuade Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks. After the United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea’s April 5 rocket launch, Pyongyang said it was pulling out of the six-party talks and threatened Wednesday to carry out nuclear tests.

Although the Chinese side did not push the Yasukuni issue very far, Mr. Wen said the history-related issue is sensitive and expressed the hope that Japan will handle it properly. Mr. Aso needs to pay appropriate attention to the Yasukuni issue because it is one that can chill bilateral relations. He has to remember that Yasukuni Shrine served as an ideological vehicle for Japan’s militarism.

Mr. Hu also said it is important for both China and Japan to develop a mutually beneficial strategic relationship. To build such a relationship, both nations need to push joint projects in various fields and promote multilevel exchanges between Japanese and Chinese people. It is hoped that technical cooperation in the fields of the environment and energy saving, and youth exchanges in the fields of culture, education and the economy will be developed further.

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