New direction in China-Japan relations includes a history project





TOKYO -- China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao strode into the parliamentary chamber of Japan's Imperial Diet to a warm round of applause from lawmakers...

Both governments have agreed it seems time to try to reduce the chances of the "history issue" causing problems for them.

They have set up a joint committee of Chinese and Japanese historians to study 2,000 years of their shared history and draw up a report setting out their positions and discussing why they differ.

"By asking historians to discuss these issues, the top leaders can say, 'These issues are now being discussed by historians, let's go solve the real issues before us'," says Shinichi Kitaoka, a history professor from the University of Tokyo, who is leading the Japanese team of historians.

"By bringing serious historians to the same table and having serious discussions, the real differences [between us] will become obvious," he adds.

So how likely is it that they will resolve those differences?

The professor appears to be a realist. "Probably we may be able to narrow the gap a little bit, but we are not expecting to reach the same perception for it is impossible even for scholars," he says.

Over the next few months, the group will be writing papers setting out their positions on the topics each historian has been assigned.

Then the hard part of trying to reach common ground gets under way in the autumn.

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