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Cao could visit Japan this month to boost defense relations
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15:30, August 14, 2007

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Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan "will pay a five-day visit to Japan" from August 29, Japan's Kyodo News quoted unnamed diplomatic sources as saying at the weekend.

Officials are arranging a meeting between Cao and his Japanese counterpart Yuriko Koike on August 30, the sources said.

The Chinese side is yet to confirm the visit, but Chinese experts on Sino-Japanese relations see the possible visit as an important step toward advancing bilateral ties.

"A defense minister-level visit will be another constructive signal for overall development of Sino-Japanese relations," Chinese Academy of Social Sciences researcher Jin Xide said.

Shen Shishun, an expert with China Institute of International Studies, said the visit "will be a powerful response" to worries whether Japan will continue efforts to improve its ties with China after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suffered a devastating defeat in upper house elections.

Shen said the possible high-level defense exchange will promote bilateral understanding and remove Japan's misunderstanding over China's defense spending.

"I believe military (or defense) exchanges are more important than exchanges in the economic and trade sector," he said.

Cao and Koike are expected to discuss reciprocal visits by the Chinese navy and Maritime Self-Defense Forces, and the setting up of a hotline between the two countries' defense authorities, Kyodo quoted the sources as saying.

Such a meeting will be the first between Japanese and Chinese defense chiefs since Shigeru Ishiba and Cao met in China in September 2003.

Abe agreed with Chinese leaders to boost bilateral defense exchanges when he visited China last year.

Bilateral defense exchanges had been suspended earlier partly because of former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead, including 14 class-A criminals.

Source: China Daily/agencies

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