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Friday, November 27, 1998 Published at 05:41 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Jiang: Japan ties 'more important' than history

Issues of war guilt have dominated the talks

On the third day of an historic visit to Japan China's President Jiang Zemin, has said future relations between the two countries were more important than history.

Correspondent Duncan Hewitt: Chinese press puts positive face on visit
"We want to contribute to peace and stability through broad bilateral contacts for generations to come," he told Japanese parliamentary leaders at a breakfast meeting in Tokyo.

Mr Jiang's visit, the first by a Chinese premier, has been overshadowed by the issue of how far Japan should go in apologising for its activities in World War II.

The BBC's Jim Fish: Asia's two giants look to a future still clouded by their shared and often bitter memories
In a joint declaration issued on Thursday Tokyo expressed "deep remorse", but did not apologise for Japanese wartime aggression.

The final statement, published after much diplomatic wrangling, said Japan "painfully [felt] its responsibility for inflicting grave suffering and damage on the people of China by invading China at one period of history".

Neither President Jiang nor Mr Obuchi signed the document and there was no join press conference, although Japanese officials said it was neither had been planned.

Diplomacy of apology

[ image: Mr Jiang said Japan must never forget the lessons of its past]
Mr Jiang said Japan must never forget the lessons of its past
Mr Obuchi did verbally offer a "heartfelt apology over the colonial rule and aggression" during talks with Mr Jiang, but similar words were not included in the written statement.

At a state banquet on Thursday, the Japanese emperor made no mention of the war in his speech. Previously such occasions have been used to express sympathy and regret.

At the same dinner, President Jiang warned that Japan must remember for eternity the lessons of its past aggression.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing said China and other Asian countries were concerned by regular denials by some in Japan of their country's war record.

The dispute has distracted attention from the intended emphasis on ways of increasing economic co-operation between the two countries to overcome the effects of Asia's financial crisis.

Trade partner

[ image: 140,000 died in the notorious Nanjing massacre of 1937]
140,000 died in the notorious Nanjing massacre of 1937
The Chinese Government is keen to cultivate relations with its largest trade partner and largest source of economic aid.

Ahead of Mr Jiang's arrival, China had demanded there should be a stronger and unequivocal apology from Tokyo for the war, and a clearer "no compromise" statement about Taiwan, which Beijing views as a renegade province.

The BBC Tokyo Correspondent Juliet Hindell says the lack of a written apology highlights the fact that Japan is still struggling to come to terms with its past.

Fear of criticism from conservative politicians and other right wing groups may also have influenced the decision.

Last month a similar Japanese-South Korean declaration was signed by Mr Obuchi and South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung during his visit to Tokyo.

Chinese officials had made it clear that they expected a similar unequivocal expression of remorse for the Japanese occupation of Manchuria in the 1930s and other wartime atrocities that have clouded relations ever since.

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