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Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 18:59 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Jiang seeks closer ties with Japan

First state visit to Japan since WWII

On the first visit by a Chinese head of state to Japan since World War II, President Jiang Zemin has said he wants the two countries to develop a friendship for the future.

The BBC's Juliet Hindell in Tokyo: "Pushing Japan to offer a stronger apology for WWII atrociities"
But in a reference to Japan's wartime aggression in China, he said Japan would have to come to serious conclusions about its history.

"It's important to seriously review the history of the relations of China and Japan in order to advance future friendship and co-operation," Mr Jiang said after arriving in Tokyo.

[ image: Jiang met Prime Minister Obuchi unofficially on Wednesday evening]
Jiang met Prime Minister Obuchi unofficially on Wednesday evening
Beijing has made it clear that it expects an unequivocal expression of remorse from Tokyo for its occupation of Manchuria in the 1930s and atrocities committed by its soldiers during World War II.

BBC Beijing Correspondent Duncan Hewitt says the issue is the most important aspect of Mr Jiang's six-day visit.

The Chinese leader is also seeking a pledge that Japan will not support a greater international role for Taiwan, which China says is part of its territory.

After his arrival, Mr Jiang attended a welcome dinner with Japanese Prime Minister, Keizo Obuchi, and other Japanese leaders. His formal meetings begin on Thursday.

A new level of apology

The Chinese foreign minister arrived in Japan one day ahead of the president to try to negotiate the wording of a statement to be released during the visit, which would incorporate a new level of apology from Japan.

[ image: Tomiichi Murayama: 1995 statement disputed]
Tomiichi Murayama: 1995 statement disputed
However officials in Tokyo say that Japan wants to stick by what former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama said in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII.

He said Japan had caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly those of Asian nations.

But Chinese sources say the apology is too weak and that Beijing wants a more formal expression used, and one that is directed specifically at China.

Japanese news reports said the two sides agreed beforehand that Prime Minister Obuchi would offer a spoken apology during the meeting with President Jiang and an expression of Japanese regret would be included in a joint statement afterwards.

Strong economic ties

Relations between Japan and China were normalised in 1972 and Mr Jiang's visit forms part of celebrations of the 20th anniversary of a peace and friendship treaty.

[ image: Japanese activists protested against Chinese human rights violations]
Japanese activists protested against Chinese human rights violations
China's desire for closer links is emphasised by the presence in Mr Jiang's party of officials in charge of economic planning, foreign trade, science and technology and the environment.

China is Japan's second-largest trading partner and Japan is China's largest, with annual trade worth more than $60bn.

China hopes Tokyo's recently unveiled economic stimulus package will boost Chinese exports to Japan, as well as Japanese inward investment.

Beijing is also anxious to make sure that its largest source of economic aid does not dry up.

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