Senior ruling party officials of both China and Japan met in Beijing Monday afternoon, hoping to repair bilateral relations damaged by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors war criminals.
The meeting came on the eve of the inauguration of an exchange mechanism between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komei Party.
China hopes that Japan will take concrete measures to eliminate the obstacles in the development of bilateral links, said Li Changchun, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.
Li said China-Japan relations are currently experiencing the most difficult times since the two countries normalized diplomatic links in 1972.
The root of this situation lies in the Japanese leader's insistence on visiting the Yasukuni Shrine honoring committed war criminals of World War II, Li said when meeting with a Japanese ruling alliance delegation co-headed by Hidenao Nakagawa and Yoshihisa Inoue.
Nakagawa, chairman of the LDP Policy Research Council, and Inoue, chairman of the Komei Party Policy Research Council, are the highest ranking officials of the ruling parties of Japan to visit China in the past two years.
The heads of the two neighboring states have halted exchange visits for more than four years, ever since Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi began to visit the controversial war shrine soon after he took office in 2001. Despite wide-spread condemnation and protests from Asian countries and the rest of the international community, Koizumi has visited the shrine for the last five years running.
As Koizumi, president of the Liberal Democratic Party, continued to call his shrine visit an "internal affair" and to tell other countries that they have no right to intervene, China and the Republic of Korea called off a planned meeting with the Japanese leader during the East Asia Summit held in Malaysia last December.
Nakagawa and Inoue's trip comes at a time when China-Japan relations are strained, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported on Sunday.
The coalition delegation consists of seven policy officials of the LDP and Komei Party. They arrived in Shanghai on Sunday morning and met with senior city officials in the evening. After speaking at a function at East China Normal University in Shanghai on Monday morning, the delegation flew to Beijing in the afternoon.
They will attend the first meeting under the China-Japan Ruling Parties Exchange Mechanism in Beijing from Feb. 21-22.
During their meeting with Li Changchun, Nakagawa said as two prominent countries in Asia, both Japan and China shoulder major responsibilities for peace and stability in Asia and the world. It is important that the two countries carry out political dialogue in a spirit of equality, Nakagawa said. He said the ruling coalition of Japan is willing to make further efforts to push forward Japan-China relations in a healthy and stable way.
Inoue said at the meeting that the Komei Party has always regarded Japan-China friendship as within the interests of the two countries and conducive to development and stability of Asia and world peace.
Noting that Japan-China relations are facing difficulties, he said the Komei Party will concentrate on promoting Japan-China friendship and opening up new bilateral links.
Li said both China and Japan are close neighbors and major countries of prominent influence in Asia and the world. Therefore, the soundness of China-Japan relations is concerned with the fundamental interests of the two peoples and prosperity and stability of Asia and the world.
Li said the CPC and Chinese government place great importance on China-Japan relations. He expressed the hope that the two sides will abide by the principles of the three political documents signed by the two countries. He called for the two sides to draw lessons from history and face the future so as to truly realize peaceful coexistence, friendship from generation to generation, mutually beneficial cooperation and common development.
Li said exchanges between political parties of the two countries make up an important part of bilateral relations. He expressed the wish that the delegates to the first meeting of the China-Japan Ruling Parties Exchange Mechanism will work together to maintain the political foundation of China-Japan relations, properly deal with differences between the two countries and push forward healthy development of bilateral relations.
The Japanese delegation will fly back home on Thursday night.