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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Japan seeks imminent China talks
Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe steps on the podium to open his first press conference after forming his Cabinet in Tokyo on Tuesday night, Sept. 26, 2006.
Shinzo Abe has taken over as PM from Junichiro Koizumi
Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen to hold talks with China as soon as next month, new foreign minister Taro Aso has said.

Mr Aso told reporters the new leader wanted talks with China in October, and was ready to travel to Beijing.

Outgoing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had a rocky relationship with neighbouring countries, mainly over his visits to a controversial war shrine.

There is hope that a change of leader might bring about a rapprochement.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has already pledged "relentless efforts" to improve ties, and South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun called for relations to develop in a "future-oriented" way.

But Mr Abe has so far refused to comment on whether he will continue to visit the controversial Yasukuni war shrine.

Built in 1869 to honour victims of the Boshin Civil War
Now venerates the souls of 2.5m of Japan's war dead
Those enshrined include 14 Class A war criminals

Both South Korea and China are angry at official Japanese visits to the Yasukuni shrine, which honours war criminals alongside Japan's war dead.

The two countries say the shrine glorifies Japan's past militarism, particularly during World War II.

China's official media warned on Wednesday that Mr Abe had not yet done enough to resolve the issue, and called on him to state clearly that he would not visit the shrine.

"Abe has been adopting 'vague tactics', has avoided making a clear stand on whether he will visit the Yasukuni Shrine," the People's Daily said.

Ongoing disputes

"Now that the prime minister has been replaced, we want to hold a summit somewhere with China in October," Mr Aso told Japanese media.

"We must consider many things including the option of a visit to China by the prime minister. The change in the premiership came at a good time," he added.

Earlier, the new Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said that meetings with top-level officials from Japan's neighbouring countries should take place as soon as possible.

"I think there is an increasing feeling on both sides to further improve Japan-China and Japan-South Korea relations," Mr Shiozaki said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao has refused to meet Mr Koizumi because of his visits to the Yasukuni shrine.

The shrine visits are not the only issue on which Japan has clashed with China.

The two Asian giants have argued over territorial disputes, gas deposits and the wording of Japanese history textbooks.

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