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Japan plans 3,000-strong delegation to China

2015-02-26 14:05 chinadaily.com.cn Web Editor: Mo Hong'e

Japanese parliamentarian Toshihiro Nikai will bring a 3,000-strong delegation to China in late May this year, Nikai told a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, according to Japanese media.

Veteran lawmaker Nikai, 75, is a top executive in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party. He said the trip is aimed at improving relations between the two countries.

Delegates will include members from the tourism and other business sectors, as well as officials from local governments.

More than 200 senior business executives visited Beijing in September last year on an annual visit. The first such trip was organized by the Japan-China Economic Association in 1975.

Nikai headed a 1,400-strong delegation, mostly travel industry personnel, to South Korea in early February where they met with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

The visit, which focused on the comfort women issue, was part of an exchange to improve ties between Japan and South Korea.

A panel of experts appointed by Japan's prime minister will meet for the first time Wednesday to discuss what he should say in a statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, fueling speculation that he may water down previous government apologies for the country's wartime past.

Japan issued a landmark apology on the 50th anniversary in 1995 under then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, for the first time acknowledging its colonization and aggression in parts of Asia before and during the war. In 2005, then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi also apologized.

Current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has appointed a 16-member panel _ 10 academics, three business leaders, two journalists and an international aid worker _ to seek advice on what to say in a statement he is expected to make on the Aug. 15 anniversary of the war's end.

Abe, who took office in late 2012, initially signaled his intention to revise the 1995 Murayama statement, triggering criticism from neighboring countries. He now says his Cabinet stands by the 1995 apology, but that he wants to issue a more forward-looking statement on the anniversary, raising suspicion that he will somehow water down the apology.

The debate over the statement reflects a simmering divide in Japan, seven decades after the war.

On one side are those who say the accounts of Japan's wartime atrocities are falsified or exaggerated, and that it's time to restore pride among Japanese in their country. On the other are liberal defenders of Japan's constitution who don't want the country to forget its colonization of Korea and invasion of China and Southeast Asia, and the disaster they spawned.

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