China puts positive spin on relations with Japan

Pandas and ping-pong helped sweeten politics yesterday on day three of the Chinese President Hu Jintao's state trip to Japan, which is warming frigid ties between the two old enemies despite being marred by controversy over Tibet.

On the first visit to Japan by a Chinese leader in a decade, Mr Hu, 65, played table tennis with the Olympic hopeful Ai Fukuhara, surprising millions of TV viewers by giving the 19-year-old a run for her money.

A beaming Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda praised Mr Hu's "strategic" playing, adding: "I'm glad I didn't play him. He was a bit scary," said a housewife, Junko Sugimoto, watching at home.

The Chinese leader has scored a diplomatic coup by offering Tokyo two giant pandas to replace Ling Ling, who died of old age last week. More than 10,000 people have queued up at Ueno Zoo to sign a book of condolence to the beloved panda, one of the most famous symbols of Sino-Japanese ties.

Mr Hu's goodwill visit has been dogged, however, by pro-Tibet supporters, hundreds of whom shouted slogans yesterday outside Tokyo's Waseda University, where he told his audience that the two nations should be partners, not rivals, despite their troubled history. "Both sides should support the other side's peaceful development, and see the other's development as an opportunity, not a threat," he said.

Mr Hu said Japan's Second World War aggression had brought about "enormous misfortune to the Chinese people" and "also greatly harmed the Japanese public". But he added that Japan has nothing to fear from a more powerful China. "We will not engage in an arms race and will not become a threat to any country," he said.

Last year Beijing stunned Tokyo by carrying out an unannounced anti-satellite weapon test, and its sharply rising military budget – £18bn – has raised fears that Asia faces a new arms race. Japan's announced military budget for 2006 was £21bn. Bilateral trade is booming but diplomacy has only recently begun thawing after a decade of bitter disputes.

The two leaders have been criticised during Mr Hu's trip for glossing over their differences. Mr Fukuda praised China's recent decision to negotiate with representatives of the Dalai Lama but has otherwise treaded carefully around the Tibetan minefield.

Mr Hu, meanwhile, who needs Tokyo's diplomatic support for the coming Olympics, has taken a more conciliatory approach to history than the last Chinese leader to visit Japan, Jiang Zemin, who demanded an apology for Japan's wartime aggression when he came 10 years ago.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect