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2ND LD: Emperor Akihito, China's Hu share hopes for further Japan-China ties.

TOKYO, May 7 Kyodo

(EDS: RECASTING THROUGHOUT WITH DINNER)

Emperor Akihito welcomed visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday, expressing his appreciation for China's decision to offer Japan a pair of giant pandas and his hope for a deepening of forward-looking bilateral ties especially through youth exchanges.

Hu, offering a toast at a dinner banquet at the Imperial Palace, also underscored his hope for enhanced relations by saying, ''Reviewing the past and looking to the future, we have every reason to believe that China-Japan relations are at a new historical starting point with new opportunities for further growth.''

''I believe nurturing friendship between young people in both countries through youth exchanges carries great significance,'' Emperor Akihito said at the dinner banquet at the Imperial Palace. ''I hope the two peoples will look back together on our long history and deepen friendly ties oriented toward the future.''

The emperor also wished Beijing success in hosting the Olympic Games in August. ''I sincerely hope that the Games will serve as an opportunity to deepen friendship among all the people of the world,'' he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the emperor told Hu after a welcoming ceremony that Japanese children are ''delighted'' by the offer to lease a pair of giant pandas, the Imperial Household Agency said.

At the dinner banquet, Emperor Akihito also referred to decades-long cooperation between Japan and China to prevent the extinction of the Japanese crested ibis, describing it as a symbol of friendship between the two countries.

''As I think of the long years of efforts by those who have worked together, transcending borders, to protect the Japanese crested ibis, I hope the day will come soon when the ibis, as a symbol of our nations' friendship, can spread its white wings in our skies,'' the emperor said.

The Japanese crested ibis, known scientifically as Nipponia Nippon, was once found in various parts of Japan but became extinct in the wild in Japan in 2003.

Three ibises presented by China to Japan have helped in the artificial breeding of the internationally protected bird and currently there are over 100 accounted for in Japan, the emperor said.

The dinner banquet was also attended by Hu's wife, Liu Yongqing, Crown Prince Naruhito, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, former Prime Ministers Tomiichi Murayama and Yasuhiro Nakasone, and painter Ikuo Hirayama were also among the guests who have deep relations with China.

Emperor Akihito and Hu both touched upon the history of friendly exchanges between the two countries over more than 2,000 years and how each country had benefited from the successful experience of the other.

In particular, the emperor mentioned in his speech the history of Japanese envoys dispatched to China during the Tang Dynasty and how Japan utilized what it learned at the time in the planning of the ancient cities of Kyoto and Nara, which Hu will visit on Saturday.

In their morning meeting, Hu and the emperor also discussed Jian Zhen, a Chinese monk, known as Ganjin in Japanese, who founded Toshodaiji Buddhist temple in the city of Nara in 759, agency officials said.

In the 20-minute talks, the two, however, did not take up thorny issues of historical perception or the Beijing Olympics. Hu also did not offer an invitation to the imperial couple to visit China, agency officials said.

The emperor told Hu, who is in Japan for the first visit by a Chinese head of state in 10 years, that he is ''happy that friendship and mutual understanding between Japan and China will deepen through the visit.''

The emperor also recalled his visit to China in 1992 and said, ''I remember well that I received a warm welcome.''

Hu was quoted as telling the emperor, ''It was a very good visit and the Chinese people remember it very well.''

Meanwhile, Hu expressed regret over the recent death of a giant panda at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo and told the emperor that the Chinese government will offer giant pandas ''so that Japanese people can continue to enjoy'' seeing them.

Hu officially announced after talks with Fukuda on Wednesday that China will lease the pandas in response to a request from Japan following the death April 30 of the only panda left at the zoo, which had had at least one panda on display since a pair was first given by China in 1972 to commemorate the normalization of Japan-China relations.

The Chinese president is paying a five-day visit to Japan from Tuesday.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:May 12, 2008
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