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China's Parliament Chairman in Japan for Eight-day Visit - 2002-04-02


The chairman of China's Parliament, Li Peng, has arrived in Japan for the start of an eight-day visit. The trip marks the 30th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic ties between the Asian nations. Leaders in both countries are saying the trip is aimed at strengthening bilateral relations.

The Chinese parliamentary leader was initially set to visit Japan last spring. But the trip was put on hold when Japan approved history textbooks that, in China's view, didn't accurately portray the extent of Japanese World War II atrocities in Asia.

Relations also cooled over a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Tokyo's Yasukuni where war criminals are honored along with all of Japan's war dead. Further angering the Chinese was a visit to Japan by the former President of Taiwan, Lee Teng-hui.

But a visit by Mr. Koizumi last October to China began to thaw the mood. Diplomats in Tokyo say Mr. Li's arrival here signals that relations between Tokyo and Beijing are continuing to get back on track. But the agenda is seen as largely symbolic and is not expected to improve any of the diplomatic and trade disputes between the two countries.

Mr. Li, the second most powerful figure in China's ruling Communist Party will hold talks with Mr. Koizumi and several political and business leaders, and will meet Emperor Akihito. He also hopes to do some sightseeing.

China watchers say the visit here could be one of Mr. Li's last big trips in that role. He is expected to relinquish all his key posts within the next 12 months. His reputation outside China began to decline in 1989 when he ordered martial law imposed shortly before the violent crackdown on student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. His overseas trips since then have frequently been greeted by human rights demonstrations.

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