‘Warm Spring’ Greets Hu-Fukuda Summit, but Tensions Persist

‘Warm Spring’ Greets Hu-Fukuda Summit, but Tensions Persist

On Saturday, Hu Jintao concluded the first state visit by a Chinese president to Japan in almost a decade. President Jiang Zemin traveled to Japan in 1998, but the subsequent deterioration in relations between Beijing and Tokyo severely curtailed high-level meetings. Although Chinese and Japanese officials managed on this occasion to finesse such recently contentious issues as Tibet and food safety, Hu's May 6-10 sojourn failed to resolve the deeper sources of these earlier bilateral tensions.

Before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Beijing in October 2006, the Chinese government had frozen high-level summits with Japanese leaders outside the context of multilateral gatherings in order to protest the annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine by Junichiro Koizumi, Japan's prime minister from April 2001 to September 2006. The Chinese and other Asian nations perceive Yasukuni, which honors Japan's 2.5 million war dead, as a symbol of Japanese militarism.

The Chinese had characterized Abe's trip as "ice-breaking," while terming Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's April 2007 visit to Japan as "ice-thawing." At the end of December 2007, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda visited China. He had a state dinner in Beijing with President Hu, the first for a Japanese prime minister since Yasuhiro Nakasone's visit two decades earlier.

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