- Title: JAPAN: Chinese premier Wen Jiabao makes a sporting visit to Kyoto amid protests
- Date: 13th April 2007
- Summary: CHINESE PRIME MINISTER WEN JIABAO IN BASEBALL UNIFORM ENTERING BASEBALL PITCH VARIOUS OF WEN JOGGING AROUND PITCH WEN PLAYING CATCH WITH LOCAL STUDENT WIDE OF BASEBALL PITCH WEN THROWING A BALL FROM A PITCHING MOUND LOCAL STUDENT BATSMAN MISSING SWING MORE OF WEN THROWING A BALL FROM PITCHING MOUND WEN HITTING A BALL AT THE PLATE CHINESE DELEGATION WATCHING WEN FINISHES GAME
- Embargoed: 28th April 2007 13:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA95HYEH9J95K7WKZ5INF2FHMVU
- Story Text: China's premier Wen Jiabao dons a baseball uniform in Kyoto and woos the Japanese locals, despite right-wing protests against China. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made a pitch -- literally -- for friendship with Japan on a visit to the ancient capital of Kyoto on Friday (April 13), and called his three-days of summitry and chats with ordinary people a success.
The trip to Kyoto came a day after Wen, the first Chinese leader to visit Japan since 2000, gave a milestone speech to Japan's parliament, talking of friendship but also warning not to forget the wartime history that has long plagued relations.
Wen's trip has combined high-level talks with a common touch -- jogging, chatting with a farmer's family and pitching to a university baseball team -- in a performance intended to appeal to the public and build on a fragile dÃ©tente that began with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's October trip to Beijing.
The Chinese premier's effort to reach out has been widely welcomed in Japan, although wariness persists as to whether the Asian rivals, at odds over energy, territory and regional influence, can become real friends.
Early in the day, Wen acknowledged that solving all bilateral problems would take time.
But speaking to reporters after playing a bit of baseball with university students, he sought to wrap up on a high-note.
"Though I didn't play well, I have enjoyed playing baseball with the students," he said, adding he had met Japanese people in many walks of life and all had expressed hopes for better ties.
Minutes before, Wen -- wearing a university uniform with his name and the number 35 for the years since Sino-Japanese diplomatic ties were established -- had pitched and batted to college students as VIPs cheered and clapped from the sidelines.
That was after the 64-year-old leader startled his host, team manager Kenji Matsuoka, by taking an impromptu sprint around the field.
Japanese media generally welcomed Wen's trip, which has been marked more by symbolism than concrete breakthroughs.
China's official media were also cautiously optimistic.
Wen began his hectic schedule in Kyoto with a Japanese tea ceremony at a guest house on the grounds of the palace where the emperor resided when Kyoto was the capital.
The carefully choreographed ritual took place in a room adorned with a calligraphy scroll in the characters shared by both countries and meaning "mutual respect".
In a sign that tensions remain, however, members of Japanese right-wing groups cruised the streets in trucks with loudspeakers blaring anti-China slogans, and security was tight.
"We need peace. I hope he is having good talks with our government during his visit," one protester said.
Wen later laid flowers at a memorial to former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, who studied in Tokyo and Kyoto from 1917 to 1919.
He then exchanged his suit and tie for a "windbreaker" jacket and running shoes to visit a Japanese farm, where he planted two tomato plants before drinking tea and eating a rice-and-red-bean sweet while chatting with the farmer's family.
Wen has sought to use his human touch as a diplomatic tool, but some Japanese people watching from afar were sceptical.
Between his smiles and handshakes, Wen has issued pointed reminders that China remains wary of Japan's handling of the legacies from its military aggression in Asia up to 1945.
Still, his speech, the first by a Chinese leader to Japan's parliament in 22 years, was a landmark in the thaw between the two Asian giants, whose economies are deeply linked.
Tokyo and Beijing fell out during the five-year term of Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, who paid his respects each year at Tokyo's Yasukuni war shrine, seen across much of the region as a symbol of past militarism.
Wen did not explicitly mention the shrine in his speech, but in an interview before his visit he pressed Abe not to go.
Abe has paid his respects before at Yasukuni, but has declined to say if he will do so as prime minister. MV/
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