China, Japan agree to look forward, not back President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda hailed a new era for bilateral relations at talks in Tokyo yesterday, and issued a joint statement which lays the foundation for both nations to bolster ties and resolve differences. Co-operation in the interests of peace and friendship was the only option for East Asia's two giants, the communique said. The fourth joint communique issued since Beijing and Tokyo resumed diplomatic ties in 1972, it touches on the tricky issues dividing China and Japan but focuses on future co-operation and exchanges. Mr Hu and Mr Fukuda agreed that leaders of the two countries would hold an annual summit and meet more often at international gatherings - a departure from the past. Mr Hu is only the second Chinese state leader to visit Japan, and the first in a decade. They also agreed that high-level exchanges should be stepped up and dialogue fostered between the countries' governments, parliaments and political parties. 'I hope this will be a year of progress in Sino-Japanese ties that will define the bilateral relationship far into the future,' Mr Fukuda said at the opening of the summit. Mr Hu, speaking at a joint press conference after the summit, said: 'I believe with this [new] document, and on the basis of the previous three, we will create a better future for Sino-Japanese relations.' Mr Fukuda said a high-level economic dialogue would be held in the autumn. The joint declaration is the highlight of Mr Hu's trip to Japan. The bilateral relationship has been troubled by disputes about a wide range of issues, including natural resources, the Sino-Japanese war and Taiwan. Former president Jiang Zemin met then Japanese prime minister Keizo Obuchi in Tokyo in 1998, but though they released a joint communique, Mr Jiang refused to sign it because it did not contain an apology from Japan for its wartime atrocities. Ties have been warmer of late, but there have been fresh setbacks, such as the fallout from the export to Japan by a mainland company of contaminated frozen dumplings which made dozens of consumers ill. The communique issued yesterday touches only briefly on such problems, however. It says both sides should look history fully in the face and move forward. On the dispute over gas fields in the waters between Japan and China, it says: 'The [two sides] will work together to make the East China Sea a sea of peace, co-operation and friendship.' On Taiwan - a Japanese colony for 50 years until 1945 - Tokyo has spurned Beijing's call for it to recognise the island as part of China. At their news conference, both leaders said significant progress had been made on the gas dispute, without going into specifics. '[We've] already seen the prospect of solving the problem,' Mr Hu said. They also pledged to settle the dumpling incident by stepping up investigation efforts. Mr Fukuda said he raised the issue of Tibet during their meeting and said he was very pleased to see Beijing resuming dialogue with envoys of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. Mr Fukuda said he wished for a successful Beijing Olympics. Before the summit, Mr Hu received a formal welcome from Japanese Emperor Akihito and met leaders of five political parties. Last night he was guest of honour at a state banquet hosted by the emperor. Emperor Akihiro expressed the hope that Sino-Japanese relations would 'take wing and soar'.