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Japan, China to agree on giant panda breeding research upon Xi visit

  • June 5, 2019
  • , Kyodo News , 10:20 p.m.
  • English Press

Japan and China plan to cooperate on breeding research for giant pandas by signing a memorandum later this month on the occasion of their leaders’ meeting, diplomatic sources said Wednesday.

 

The signing is intended to showcase the continuing thaw in bilateral relations that have been frayed over territorial and history-related issues, paving the way for China’s future lease of another giant panda at the request of Japan, they said.

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to make his first visit to Japan since he came to power in 2013 and a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is being arranged on the fringes of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, western Japan, on June 28 and 29.

 

Both governments are weighing the possibility of the two leaders attending a ceremony to sign the memorandum, according to the sources.

 

The document will state future cooperation over giant panda breeding between the Japanese Foreign Ministry and Environment Ministry and China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration.

 

It will also enable the two countries to jointly cope with diseases and other breeding problems faced by giant pandas, including those already leased to Japan.

 

Giant pandas from China are seen as symbols of bilateral friendship. There are now 10 giant pandas in Japan — those leased and their offspring — with three of them at the Ueno Zoological Gardens in Tokyo, six at the Adventure World zoo amusement park in Wakayama Prefecture and one at Kobe Oji Zoo in Hyogo Prefecture.

 

Most recently, the loan period for giant panda cub Xiang Xiang at the Ueno zoo has been extended until the end of next year. China has ownership of the cub that was born in 2017 at the Japanese zoo and the animal was originally due to be sent to China this month.

 

The envisioned agreement “will add impetus to efforts to secure the lease of another giant panda,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said.

 

The names of zoos to accept a new giant panda have already been floated, including facilities in Miyagi and Hyogo prefectures.

 

The first giant pandas came to the Ueno zoo in 1972 to commemorate the normalization of bilateral ties. In 2011, China expressed willingness to lease more giant pandas to Japan but it did not materialize as ties worsened, particularly due to a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

 

Former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda brought the islands, which China claims and calls Diaoyu, under state control in September 2012.

 

But bilateral relations have been improving in recent months while Beijing is locked in a trade war with Washington. When Abe visited Beijing in October, he agreed with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to move forward talks to realize another giant panda lease to Japan.

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