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Koizumi To Visit China - 2001-10-07

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is to go Monday to Beijing for a one-day visit with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Zhu Rongji. The aim of the trip is to improve strained ties between the two nations. Mr. Koizumi is hoping to ease Beijing's concerns about expanding the legal scope of Japan's military operations overseas, following the September 11th terrorist attacks.

In talks with China's president and prime minister, he is expected to gauge Beijing's view on Tokyo's desire to provide logistical support for U.S. retaliation against terrorism.

Japan has pledged to provide non-combat assistance such as medical treatment, transport and supplies. The proposal, from Japan's ruling coalition, is expected to be approved by parliament later this month. It could frighten many in China and other Asian countries, which have bitter memories of Japan's expansionist agenda before and during World War II.

The Japanese leader is also hoping his trip to Beijing will repair ties that were damaged by his August visit to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, which commemorates the country's war dead, including 14 convicted war criminals.

Mr. Koizumi may also discuss Tokyo's approval of history textbooks that critics say whitewash Japan's wartime record. The government's approval of the books outraged Beijing and sparked formal diplomatic protests.

To underscore his efforts to mend ties, Mr. Koizumi is set to begin his trip by visiting the Marco Polo Bridge, the site of the 1937 clash that triggered an eight-year war between Japan and China.

Mr. Koizumi is set to make a similar one-day visit to South Korea on October 15 for talks with President Kim Dae Jung. Tokyo's ties with Seoul have also deteriorated over the textbook dispute and the visit to the Yasukuni Shrine.

Political analysts say Tokyo is eager to improve relations with Beijing and Seoul, as they face new diplomatic issues following the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Mr. Koizumi's fence-mending visits come ahead of the APEC leaders' summit in Shanghai, opening October 20. During the meeting Asia-Pacific nations are expected to develop a group plan to counter terrorism.