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Region's Leaders Ask China, Japan to End Feud

Dispute Between Economic Powerhouses Overshadows Historic Asia-Africa Forum

Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page A15

JAKARTA, Indonesia, April 20 -- Asian foreign ministers on Wednesday called on China and Japan to resolve a dispute the ministers said was sparking concern across the region.

The clash between the economic powerhouses has overshadowed a landmark meeting of Asian and African leaders in Indonesia, with all eyes on whether Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan and President Hu Jintao of China will hold talks at the gathering this week.

Chinese demonstrators have held violent protests against Japan for the last three weekends. Many Chinese are angry about a revised Japanese school textbook that they say whitewashes Japanese actions during World War II. The protesters also oppose Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Asian ministers, speaking during breaks in talks aimed at strengthening Asia-Africa ties, said the dispute was being scrutinized across a region where many countries count Japan and China as key trading partners.

"It won't be good for us if these two giants in Asia are going to have bad relations," George Yeo, Singapore's foreign minister, said after meeting with his Japanese counterpart. "It's not in our interest at all. We hope that there will be enough goodwill on both sides to overcome problems between them."

Representatives of about 100 countries are attending a summit in Jakarta this week for the 50th anniversary of the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference, which was held in Bandung, Indonesia. That meeting marked the first unified move by developing countries into world affairs. Indonesia hopes the conference will bridge a gap in relations between the two diverse continents.

Heads of state are scheduled to meet on Friday and Saturday in Jakarta.

Japanese officials have said Koizumi and Hu might hold separate talks, but no meeting has been confirmed.

Sino-Japanese ties are more tentative than at any time in the past three decades, putting at risk a partnership worth $178 billion in annual trade. While Asian countries have tried not to take sides in the dispute, some have sought to remind Japan about its wartime past. Most are loathe to offend China.

Ministers said the tension was not on the table at the Asia-Africa meeting.

Still, Nobutaka Machimura, the Japanese foreign minister, reminded Asian and African diplomats about his country's generosity in a speech at the meeting, saying that in the past decade, Japan's aid to poor countries accounted for 20 percent of the world's total.

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