Chinese Premier Calls For Close Relations With Japan

Thursday, April 12th 2007, 7:57 am
By: News On 6

TOKYO (AP) _ Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urged Japan's parliament on Thursday not to forget Tokyo's wartime aggression, even as the two powers mend strained ties and bolster thriving business relations.

Wen _ China's first leader to address the parliament in 22 years _ was on a three-day ``ice-melting'' trip to Japan as the two countries work to reverse a deterioration in ties caused partly by the two former World War II enemies' disagreements over the past.

``To reflect on history is not to dwell on hard feelings but to remember and learn from the past in order to open a better future,'' Wen told parliament.

Even as Wen struck a conciliatory note, a new dispute over undersea gas and oil deposits threatened to sour the fragile detente.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said that Tokyo was concerned over an annual report by China's state-controlled CNOOC Ltd., which said that last year it began producing 42 barrels of oil and 4 million cubic feet of gas a day from a disputed field between eastern China and Japan's southern island chain of Okinawa.

Wen said Wednesday that the territorial point was a sticking point in better relations between Asia's largest economies.

Japan has objected to China's exploitation of the gas, saying some belongs to Japan.

Tokyo has asked Chinese officials for confirmation of the CNOOC report, the official said on customary condition of anonymity.

``It is a natural exercise of our legitimate sovereign rights and interests,'' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular briefing. ``We hope Japan will have a clear understanding of this point.''

The two countries long have been at odds over Japan's invasions and occupation of China in the 1930s and '40s.

Beijing has accused Tokyo of not fully atoning, while some Japanese feel their country's wrongdoings have been exaggerated. Wen said he hoped Japanese apologies would be ``turned into actions.''

Bilateral relations plunged to their lowest level in decades during the 2001-06 term of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

His successor, Shinzo Abe, traveled to China in October beginning an improvement in ties.

Showing unity has been a priority for Wen and Abe this week. On Wednesday, they declared their intentions to move forward on rebuilding relations, signed agreements on energy and the environment, and issued a joint statement on several issues for cooperation.

Wen is also on a mission to woo the Japanese public, going for a jog Thursday at a Tokyo park and joining a group doing tai chi.

Wen also had an audience with Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace on Thursday. He invited the monarch to the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, according to court official Yasuo Moriyama. Akihito last visited China in 1992.

Akihito said he would consult with his government advisers.

China, including Hong Kong, is Japan's No. 1 trading partner, and Beijing is eager to increase Japanese technological assistance and investment in its booming economy.

After his parliament speech, Wen told members of Japan's leading business federation that ``winter has past, and spring has come'' in China-Japan relations.

He urged Japanese companies to invest in China, vowing to address vast imbalances in the Chinese economy, improve the natural environment, protect intellectual property rights, continue tax breaks for high-tech companies and remain committed to currency reform.

``China must build a society that conserves its resources and protects its environment,'' Wen said.

Wen and Abe also launched a new series of high-level economic dialogues, under which the countries' top economic ministers would meet every year.

``Our economies have become indispensable to each other ... and our relationship is also crucial to the world economy,'' Abe said.

Wen also used a new, conciliatory tone in referring to Tokyo's long campaign to win a permanent U.N. Security Council seat _ which China has blocked in the past.

``China understands Japan's hope to play a bigger role in international society, and we are ready to strengthen our mutual understanding over the United Nations' reforms,'' he said.

However, Wen warned Japan not to meddle in Beijing's relations with Taiwan _ a democratic, self-governing island that communist Beijing considers part of China.