Japanese PM in Beijing for visit

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso has arrived in Beijing for a visit expected to focus primarily on the economy.

Japan and China, the world's second and third-biggest economies respectively, are hoping to work together to combat the global downturn.

But the visit comes at a sensitive time for China-Japan relations.

Last week Mr Aso sent an offering to the controversial Yasukuni shrine, which Beijing sees as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

China said in a statement that it expressed "serious concern and dissatisfaction" for the shrine offering.

Sensitive issue

Mr Aso was due to meet with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao on Wednesday, and President Hu Jintao on Thursday.

Economic ties are expected to dominate talks, along with efforts to develop joint energy reserves and combat an outbreak of swine flu.

North Korea may also be on the agenda. Japan is keen to enlist Chinese help in persuading Pyongyang to return to six-nation talks on its nuclear programme.

North Korea walked away from the negotiating table in the wake of UN criticism over its rocket launch earlier this month.

Mr Aso's visit comes just a week after he upset China by a making an offering to Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni war shrine.

He did not actually visit the shrine, but sent a plant which he said expressed his "appreciation and respect as a Japanese national to the people who sacrificed their precious lives for the country".

Previous prime ministers have stirred regional tensions by visiting Yasukuni - which honours Japan's war dead, including 14 people convicted as Class A war criminals after World War II.

Repeated visits by Junichiro Koizumi caused anger in South Korea and China, where there remains a widely-held conviction that Japan has not atoned properly for its war-time crimes.


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