Red carpet treatment for Japanese PM

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 December, 2007, 12:00am

Beijing rolled out the red carpet for Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda yesterday as he arrived in the capital for a trip that is set to further cement ties between the Asian economic giants.

Despite a pall over Beijing that sent pollution to the highest warning levels yesterday, officials from both countries were optimistic about the trip, the first by Mr Fukuda in his present capacity and his second in four years.

'We hope Mr Fukuda's visit will bring spring to Japan-China relations, and this will last for a long time. We also hope to work on further high-level politician visits,' a senior Japanese official said.

The highest levels of protocol are expected to be on display today when Premier Wen Jiabao hosts a welcome ceremony.

China Youth Daily quoted a government source yesterday as saying Beijing would throw a grand reception appropriate for a state leader.

But Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang would not comment on the report.

'We'll give Mr Fukuda warm, friendly and suitable treatment because this is an important visit that has significant meaning for improving Sino-Japanese relations,' he said.

After arriving at Beijing airport at about 5pm, Mr Fukuda and his delegation headed to a dinner with Japanese embassy officials.

His schedule today will be tight and includes meetings with Mr Wen, President Hu Jintao and National People's Congress chairman Wu Bangguo .

An agreement on co-operation to deal with climate change and another on youth exchanges will be among a number signed today, the Japanese official said.

Other issues to be touched on include energy co-operation, further promotion of trade ties and the long-running dispute over gas exploration in the East China Sea, the official added. He said Mr Fukuda would also discuss regional issues such as North Korea's denuclearisation.

With relations improving since an ice-breaking trip last year by Shinzo Abe, Mr Fukuda's predecessor, activists said people had been more accepting of the visit.

Some activists had been told by the central government to restrain themselves during the visit to create a 'friendly environment', said leading campaigner Tong Zeng , president of the Chinese Civilian Association for Safeguarding the Diaoyu Islands.

'Given that Mr Fukuda is an old friend of China, Chinese people now have higher hopes of better ties between the two countries,' he said.

Fukuda's schedule

Today

Welcome ceremony hosted by Premier Wen Jiabao ; sign agreements and have lunch with Mr Wen; deliver a speech at Peking University; meeting with NPC Standing Committee chairman Wu Bangguo ; dinner with President Hu Jintao

Tomorrow

Breakfast with Mr Wen and the Friendship Association; visit a primary school; lunch with Tianjin officials; tour the Binhai New Area; dinner with Shandong officials

Sunday

Visit the temple and cemetery of Confucius; leave for Japan

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