Japan urges 'hotline' with China, plays down shrine visit

PARIS Thu Jan 9, 2014 10:36am EST

1 of 6. (L-R) Japan's Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera, Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attend a news conference at the Quai d'Orsay Foreign Affairs ministry in Paris, January 9, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - Japan, at odds with China on territorial and other issues, took its case to Europe on Thursday, defending Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to a war shrine and reiterating its call for an emergency hotline between Tokyo and Beijing.

Ties between the two Asian economic giants, never warm, were further strained last month when Abe visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals are enshrined with other war dead, angering China and South Korea.

Beijing and Tokyo are also arguing over ownership of a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea. China has said it is willing to talk to Japan about the issue but has accused Abe of not being serious about wanting to resolve the dispute.

Speaking at a news conference with their French counterparts, Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Tokyo's sole objective was building a durable peace in the Asian-Pacific region.

"We need a hotline for dialogue," Onodera said, speaking through an interpreter. "We spoke to China about this, but sadly this dialogue is not open, but we must re-open it."

Japan and China agreed in 2011 to hold discussions on setting up a Defense hotline for maritime and air emergencies.

But their talks stalled after the Japanese government bought the disputed islands from a private landowner in 2012 to fend off a potentially more inflammatory purchase by the Tokyo city government, then headed by a nationalist governor.


China took its propaganda war with Japan to the United Nations on Wednesday, questioning Abe's motives for visiting the Yasukuni Shrine and calling on him to correct his "erroneous outlook" on history.

Both China and Korea suffered under brutal Japanese rule, with parts of China occupied in the 1930s and Korea colonized from 1910 to 1945.

Responding to a question from a Chinese journalist at the Paris news conference, Kishida said Abe had apologized to those in China and South Korea who had felt offended. He added that Abe had gone there to pray for peace.

"It is a shrine where we go to pray for the souls of two million Japanese who lost their lives for their country," Kumio said. "It was to show our sadness and pray for a world without war. We have to continue dialogue and the prime minister will continue to explain his motivations for the visit."

France has little influence in the Asian region but is keen to boost its economic ties there. It is also one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, along with China, Japan's key ally the United States, Russia and Britain.

"The tensions (between China and Japan) are a source of concern," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. "We want this part of the world to find solutions to ease tensions."

Kishida and Onodera were in Paris for the first joint meeting of French and Japanese Defense and foreign ministers. It followed a similar meeting between Japan and Russia in November.

Paris and Tokyo agreed to consult each other on procedures and mechanisms to control the export of military materials and goods with potential military use.

Japan had pressed for such an accord after France sold ship-based helicopter-landing equipment to China which Tokyo fears could improve Beijing's ability to patrol the contested islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

Further talks will be held in April to firm up a potential military partnership between France and Japan, including for next-generation helicopters, submarine propulsion and underwater drones, the ministers said.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Comments (7)
StigTW wrote:
Japan doesn’t even need a hotline it’s in denial about too many things… May a few reality checks first might be a good start.

Jan 09, 2014 1:08pm EST  --  Report as abuse
gunthers wrote:
Japan has a PM who sees himself as a new Shogun. His promotion of patriotism and nationalism will inevitably lead to conflict in Asia. And the revision of history by his administration will probably result in a new version of the attack on Pearl Harbour, where the “peace loving” Imperial Japanese air force while they were about to take a vacation in Hawaii, was attacked by the US pacific fleet.
With regards to “comfort women”, I believe Caucasian women were also “enrolled” in the “Honourable Order of Comfort Women” by the Imperial Japanese Army. There were French women in Indo-China, British/Australian in Malaya/Singapore and Dutch in Indonesia as well who were captured.
Not to mention, how well the Imperial Japanese Army “observed” the Geneva conventions with their treatment of captured POWs.
Most of Asia acknowledges and appreciate the US for ending WWII. But the current US administration with its pivot to Asia and support for this Japanese administration will reverse all the goodwill earned through the sacrifices of US servicemen during WWII.
The current Japanese PM who is so proud of his ancestry, is not likely to forget which country was responsible for the defeat and humiliation of his country as well as 2 bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
Would it not be ironic to have the US and China both allies during WWII, placed in a situation which may lead to armed conflict for the benefit of a resurgent and nationalist Japan ?
I believe the current Japanese PM and his govt. is deliberately provoking China and South Korea to divert attention from the lethal radiation consequences of Fukushima on the Japanese people and the asian region.

Jan 09, 2014 6:06pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Kailim wrote:
There was a report couple days ago that the German prosecutors have charged a former Nazi soldier of murder in a French village. The indicted crime occurred nearly 70 years ago when the soldier was 19 and he is 88 now.

The convicted war criminals of Japan have been worshiped as national heroes by the Japanese Prime Minister. Whereas the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt knelt at the monument of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and said afterwards “Under the weight of recent history, I did what people do when words failed them. In this way I commemorated millions of murdered people.”

Good and bad, beautiful and ugly are all results of comparisons.

Jan 09, 2014 7:30pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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