Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao held "heart-to-heart" talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on Friday, and both stressed joint efforts to promote bilateral relations, saying "a spring has come" for China-Japan ties.
Later in the afternoon, Chinese President Hu Jintao and top legislator Wu Bangguo met with Fukuda, respectively, after he spoke at the elite Peking University.
Friday's talks took place in the Great Hall of the People after a red-carpet welcoming ceremony. Wen said a morning snowfall indicated both "an auspicious and abundant year" and a new start of the China-Japan relations.
Fukuda described their talks as "a heart-to-heart dialogue" and said he was determined to treat bilateral relations earnestly "in the new year to come".
Wen said Sino-Japanese relations had entered "an important period of improvement and development", adding that he would like to work with Fukuda to jointly seize opportunities so as to "promote a new and greater development of strategic and mutually beneficial China-Japan relations".
The premier and Fukuda had a "friendly telephone call" only four days after Fukuda assumed his premiership. They also met over lunch during an Asian summit in Singapore last month. "As it shows, we have established a sound work relationship," the premier said.
Fukuda said that China-Japan relations offered "huge opportunities and responsibilities". Fukuda added he hoped the two countries could cooperate for the future of Asia and the world.
Wen proposed the two countries should maintain momentum through mutual visits and meetings at various multilateral occasions by the two state leaders and conduct high-level coordination on issues of common concern to achieve enhanced political mutual trust.
He also suggested the two nations should cooperate in such key areas as energy, environment, finance, high-tech, telecom and intellectual property protection to boost the quality and efficiency of China-Japan economic and trade cooperation.
The two countries should further conduct personnel exchanges to strengthen China-Japan friendship, Wen said.
Fukuda's visit, three months after he took office, was the first to China by a Japanese prime minister since Shinzo Abe visited Beijing last October.
It was the third overseas trip of Fukuda's premiership after visits to the United States and Singapore.
Next year, the two countries would mark the 30th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Meanwhile, youth exchange programs would be further promoted as the two countries observed the China-Japan Friendly Exchange Year of the Youth in 2008.
As China would also host the Olympics next year, Fukuda said Japan would "vigorously support" China and "sincerely look forward to" the success of the Games. Wen also expressed a warm welcome for Japan to take part in the Olympiad.
"To maintain and strengthen the China-Japan friendly ties is the only correct choice of the two countries," Wen said. "It is inline with the fundamental interests of their two peoples and is conducive to the peace and development of northeastern Asia, and the continent as a whole."
The premier said the two nations would strengthen defense exchanges and security dialogues, and schedule "in good time" a China visit by Japan's defense minister and the maritime self-defense force.
He said China and Japan should "properly and cautiously" handle historical and Taiwan issues to safeguard the political basis of the bilateral relations.
Fukuda said Japan would "very earnestly" reflect on the agonizing part of history and continue to follow the path of peaceful development so as to establish "forward-looking China-Japan relations". The two nations had a long-time disagreement on wartime history.
Wen and Fukuda also exchanged views on resources development in the East China Sea and the Taiwan issue.
Shi Yinhong, a professor with the Institute of International Relations under Beijing's Renmin University of China, pointed out that Japan no longer "assumed a dodgy attitude" over the Taiwan issue. It made it clear that Japan would give no support to the claims of "one China, one Taiwan", "Taiwan independence" or Taiwan authorities' attempts to join the United Nations and to seek UN membership through "referendum".
Shi considered it as "significant fruit" of the Chinese diplomacy towards Japan that "created favorable conditions" to continuously improve and develop the Sino-Japanese relations.
The professor believed the East China Sea issue was "very complicated" and the problem would not be solved "in one day" as there were differences in the stands of the two parties.
"It needs the two to conduct frequent, sincere, careful and patient negotiations," Shi said.
During their talks, Wen and Fukuda also touched upon the assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto on Thursday. Both expressed strong opposition against terrorist activities.
Wen also invited Fukuda, a former university athlete, to play baseball player. During Wen's "ice-thawing" trip to Japan in April, the premier played baseball with Japanese college students. The baseball invitation unveiled at Friday's talks, set the dialogue tone as "easy and pleasant".
Xu Dunxin, former Chinese ambassador to Japan, attended the following luncheon hosted by Wen. "The joyous atmosphere at lunch shows that the two parties are satisfied with the meeting and are confident of the future of the bilateral relations," he said.
Xu said Friday's dialogue pointed to a new direction for the Sino-Japanese relations and promised to strengthen joint efforts to resolve hard issues that were not able to produce major achievement soon.
"All these fruits are hard-won and gratify the two parties," Xu said.
After the talks, the two witnessed the signing of three cooperation documents in fields of youth exchanges, technical cooperation on climate change, and new joint research on magnetic-fusion energy.
Speaking to college students, Fukuda said his name, which means "happiness" in the Chinese language, indicated, "happiness has come".
While meeting with Fukuda, President Hu said a sound China-Japan relations were "shared wishes" of the two nations and "shared responsibilities and missions" of the leaders of the two countries. Hu called for appropriately settling major sensitive issues.
The two countries also agreed that Hu would visit Japan next year "in a cherry blossom spring". It would be the first visit by a Chinese president after 10 years.
During Fukuda's four-day tour, he would also visit an economic development zone in Tianjin on Saturday and the hometown of Confucius in Qufu, Shandong Province, on Sunday before flying back to Japan.