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Chinese defence minister in Japan to boost ties

August 29, 2007

China's defence ministerChina's Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan (left) visit to Japan [Images] on Wednesday -- the first such visit in more than nine years � will see the Asian giants working to settle their rocky relations.

Defence issues have been a key impediment in relations between the two countries, with Japan repeatedly joining the United States in voicing concern about China's rapidly growing military budget.

Cao will arrive for a two-day visit in which he will meet with his counterpart Masahiko Komura, who only took office on Monday in a cabinet reshuffle by embattled Prime Minister Shinzo Abe [Images].

The general's visit to Japan will be the first by a Chinese defence minister since February 1998 before relations between Tokyo and Beijing [Images] turned icy under former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi [Images].

Koizumi drew China's ire by annually visiting the controversial Yasukuni shrine [Images], which honours war dead along with war criminals who led Japan's militarism in Asia.

China refused all summits with Koizumi and cited the shrine row to scuttle Japan's top foreign policy goal of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Abe has tried to mend strained ties and made a conciliatory visit to China immediately after taking office last September. The prime minister has cited his efforts with China as a key achievement but voters still dealt his ruling Liberal Democratic Party a major blow last month in the upper house elections following a number of domestic scandals.

Cao was expected to tour a major Japanese naval base near Tokyo and an army training ground, a Japanese defence ministry official said.

The two defence ministers may also discuss launching a hotline between the two nations amid Japan's concerns over China's military build-up, sources said.

Also see: Abe's visit to India

Also see: Abe's plan irks China 




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