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Chinese President Begins Japan Visit

Chinese President Hu Jintao, his country's first head of state to visit Japan in 10 years, is calling for closer cooperation with Tokyo.

Arriving in the Japanese capital Tuesday on a five-day visit, Mr. Hu said he hopes to increase mutual trust and open a new stage in Sino-Japanese relations.

Mr. Hu's visit is aimed at easing long-standing tensions between the two countries, over issues including energy exploration in disputed waters, Japan's treatment of its wartime invasion of China and anti-Japanese protests in China.

Hundreds of protesters marched through central Tokyo's streets shouting anti-China slogans Tuesday, but Mr. Hu saw or heard few if any of them.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda hosted an informal dinner ending Mr. Hu's first day in Tokyo. Formal talks Wednesday are expected to take up climate-change issues, economic cooperation and politics.

Mr. Hu and Mr. Fukuda are expected to issue a joint statement on bilateral relations following their talks. The Chinese president also is scheduled to meet with Japanese Emperor Akihito and deliver a speech to Japanese students.

In a gesture of friendship, the Chinese president offered to lend Japan a pair of giant pandas. Japan's oldest giant panda, a star attraction at a Tokyo zoo, died of old age just last week.

Relations between Tokyo and Beijing have improved recently after a long period of tension. Most of the problems arose from former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine that honors Japan's war dead, including a number of war criminals.

More recently, the two countries have squabbled over illnesses caused in Japan by a shipment of Chinese dumplings contaminated with pesticide. However, trade between the two Asian nations continues to improve; last year it totaled nearly $237 billion.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.