China welcomes Japan's premier-elect to global stage

China congratulated Japan's Yoshihiko Noda on Monday after he was elected the ruling party chief in a vote that will see him become the country's sixth prime minister in five years.

The low-key, business-friendly finance minister is set to be confirmed as premier by parliament on Tuesday, replacing the unpopular Naoto Kan, who resigned last week.

"We extend our congratulations to Mr Noda for his election as president of the Democratic Party of Japan," the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

"China has always attached great importance to Sino-Japanese relations," said the statement faxed to AFP.

Noda's election is expected to be controversial in China, however, due to his stance on World War II.

He recently revived painful memories by stating that Japanese soldiers convicted of war crimes by an Allied tribunal after the defeat of Japan were not criminals.

Similarly, Noda refuses to condemn the visits of politician from around the world to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where dead soldiers -- including war criminals -- are honoured despite protests by Chinese and South Korean victims of Japanese military occupation.

While China and Japan -- the world's second and third largest economies -- are dependent one another economically, relations have often been fraught in the post-war period.

Tokyo has expressed concern over Beijing's growing assertiveness and widening naval reach in nearby waters and the Pacific and over what it has called the "opaqueness" of Beijing's military budget.

The neighbours are embroiled in a long-standing territorial row over disputed Japanese-administered islands called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in Chinese.

In September last year, Beijing broke off all high-level contact with Tokyo after Japan detained a Chinese fishing boat captain whose vessel had collided with Japanese coastguard patrol ships in the same waters.

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