Page last updated at 09:05 GMT, Wednesday, 7 May 2008 10:05 UK

Landmark China-Japan deal agreed

Mr Hu (L) and Mr Fukuda, 07/05

China and Japan have signed a historic deal agreeing a "new starting point" in relations, after summit talks in Tokyo.

China's President Hu Jintao and Yasuo Fukuda of Japan agreed a blueprint for future ties - including a yearly summit between the nations' leaders.

The deal comes after years of strained relations, caused by rows over wartime history and offshore resources.

Mr Fukuda also urged Mr Hu, on his first state visit to Japan, to continue trying to resolve the crisis in Tibet.

The Japanese prime minister told reporters he "rated highly" Mr Hu's decision to hold talks with representatives of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

But Mr Hu said the Dalai Lama would need to stop "acting to separate the homeland" and "inciting violent acts" for the talks to succeed.

Beijing has made similar allegations several times since recent unrest in and around Tibet. The Dalai Lama denies any role in the unrest and says he is not seeking independence for Tibet.

Positive view

The deal signed by Mr Hu and Mr Fukuda was the fourth such agreement since 1972.

"The two nations agreed that Japan and China both share larger responsibilities for the world's peace and development in the 21st Century," a joint statement issued after the summit read.

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Disputed islands Both countries claim ownership of Senkaku/Diaoyu islands
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"Leaders of the two states will develop ways for regular exchanges, with one leader visiting the other in principle every year."

After the meeting, Mr Fukuda said the two leaders had pledged to work to resolve a dispute over gas deposits in the East China Sea.

"We agreed a solution is in sight for the long pending issue of developing resources in the East China Sea as Japan and China have held meaningful discussions and made significant progress," Mr Fukuda told a joint news conference.

Mr Hu also made upbeat comments to reporters following the talks.

"We both believe relations between China and Japan are at a new starting point," he said.

His visit is the first by a Chinese leader since 1998, when incumbent Jiang Zemin caused controversy by lecturing Japan's politicians on their country's wartime past.

China suspended high-level contact with Japan from 2001 to 2006 during the premiership of Junichiro Koizumi, who made repeated visits to the Yasukuni war shrine, a place most Chinese believe glorifies militarism.

Mr Fukuda has promised not to visit the shrine while he is in power and has called for Japan to be humble about its past.

China has now overtaken the US as Japan's top trading partner, with bilateral trade increasing 12% last year to $236.6bn.

And analysts say this increasingly important economic relationship has played a vital role in warming the ties between the two nations.

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