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Chinese Premier Urges Japan, China to Work Together, Put History Behind Them


Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says Japan and his own country should heal the long-festering wounds of war and work toward more cooperation. Mr. Wen made the appeal in a speech to Japan's parliament on the second day of his visit to the country. VOA's Luis Ramirez has more from Tokyo.

Wen Jiabao came to Tokyo to mend relations scarred by China's memories of Japanese aggression during the first half of the twentieth century.

Mr. Wen was greeted by applause from Japanese lawmakers when he entered to the room deliver the first speech to the Japanese parliament by a Chinese leader in more than two decades.

He told Japanese lawmakers that Japan's invasion of China in the 1930's and 40's left indescribable scars and pain in the hearts of the Chinese people. But in a significant overture to Japanese sensibilities, he said the war also caused enormous suffering among the people of Japan. He said the blame went to a handful of militarists, not the Japanese people, and he said China credits Japan for the apologies it has offered.

Despite his overture, Mr. Wen indicated the memory of war has not been erased, and he urged Japan to confront its past openly - something successive Japanese governments have been reluctant to do.

"In our hearts we hope Japan will take the opportune momentum to reflect on its relevant positions and promises," he said.

Relations between the two Asian powers were badly strained during the 2001-2006 tenure of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who repeatedly visited the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, where convicted war criminals are among those honored.

China has repeatedly urged Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe not to visit Yasukuni. Japan sees the religious shrine as a place where the country pays tribute to all of its war dead, while China, along with South Korea, views it as a symbol of Japanese militarism.

Another source of bitterness between the two nations has been a dispute over control of potential oil and gas reserves in the East China Sea.

Mr. Wen told Japanese lawmakers it is clear his visit will not fix all of the problems between the two countries, and he said the focus now should be on building cooperation on trade and other issues.

"It should be acknowledged that China and Japan still have differences on some issues of concrete interests and on views of some issues," he noted.

The Chinese premier's visit triggered loud protests Thursday by nationalist groups, who are angry at what they see as Prime Minister Abe's bowing to China's communist government.

One protest tied up traffic briefly in a major intersection of the capital.

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