Japan's Abe dubs China vital partner amid territorial disputes

TOKYO Thu Apr 17, 2014 4:02am EDT

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gestures as he gives a keynote address at Japan Summit 2014 hosted by the Economist magazine in Tokyo April 17, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gestures as he gives a keynote address at Japan Summit 2014 hosted by the Economist magazine in Tokyo April 17, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Yuya Shino

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe criticized Beijing for trying to "change the status quo" with force in maritime disputes but said China was a vital economic partner, as a series of visits suggested a possible thaw in ties between the Asian rivals.

Sino-Japanese ties have been strained by a territorial row over tiny disputed isles in the East China Sea and perceptions in Beijing that Abe wants to rewrite Japan's wartime history and tone down past apologies.

"China's growth is a chance for Japan, and for the world as well. China is Japan's largest trading partner and we are in inseparable relations economically," Abe said at a symposium.

"On the other hand, it is true that China is challenging the status quo with force in the East China Sea and South China Sea," Abe said, referring to Beijing's territorial rows with several Southeast Asian countries as well.

"It is necessary for not only Japan but many other countries to prompt China to grow peacefully as a responsible country."

China's People's Liberation Army is building submarines, surface ships and anti-ship ballistic missiles, and has tested emerging technology aimed at destroying missiles in mid-air. The military modernization has also been accompanied by a more assertive posture in its territorial disputes.

Abe, who returned to office in December 2012, has yet to hold a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping due to the tensions in ties between Asia's two biggest economies.

Relations, often frayed by the legacy of Japan's wartime aggression and occupation of parts of China, are also strained by the row over the East China Sea isles, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said she hoped Japan would correct its mistakes.

"Currently, there are serious difficulties in China-Japan relations," Hua told reporters. "It is due to the extremely mistaken ways that the Japanese government and Japanese leaders have adopted on the Diaoyu and other historical issues."

But a series of visits and planned visits between the two countries has prompted speculation over a possible shift, as has an article by two academics that appeared in the Washington Post showing the frequency of Chinese maritime patrols in waters that Japan considers its own had declined over the past six months, possibly signaling Beijing's desire to cool things down.

An April 24-26 visit to Beijing by Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe, elected to his post with the backing of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), is grabbing the most attention.

"If two important cities from the two countries can start to mend the relationship, of course that will have a positive impact on the whole China-Japan relationship," said Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University in Beijing.

"This shows that both sides want to open a channel for dialogue outside of the central government."

Jin said the decrease in Chinese maritime patrols in disputed waters could signal a desire to soothe tensions. A Japanese expert agreed, but said the publication of the article noting the change could have a negative impact.

"They will de-escalate when no one notices," said Narushige Michishita, a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. "But if people notice, they might have to go back, especially the Chinese side."

Among other moves that have caught attention are Abe's reported meeting this month with the son of the late Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang and a meeting on Tuesday between Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang and a Japanese trade delegation headed by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, in whose name a 1995 apology over women, mostly Asian, forced to work in Japan's wartime military brothels, was issued.

Liu Jiangyong, an expert on Sino-Japan relations at Beijing's Tsinghua University, cautioned against reading too much into recent moves.

"There has been no recent material change (in the Sino-Japan relationship)," he said.

(Additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan and Michael Martina in Beijing; Writing by Linda Sieg in Tokyo; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Comments (4)
TonyP4 wrote:
From my book Debunk the Myths in Investing (amazon) on Japan:
From my book on Japan 2014:

Japan is not the Japan 25 years ago. As of 2014, I do not want to invest in Japan.

The policy has failed and the new policy is basically the same as the old one. Their problems are:

1. Agitate their major partner China on the disputed islets, which should belong to Taiwan by proximity and it should be returned after WW2. They’re losing trade from China while China can buy the equipment and technology from many other sources.

2. The virtually zero interest rate does not work before and it will not work in the future.

3. The higher tax and higher inflation in Japan will lower the living standard in Japan.

4. The recent surge in export is just a mirage and cannot be sustained in the long run.

5. The recent Tsunami will hurt Japan for another decade. I do not want to visit the affected area or eat any food products produced from this area.

6. The impact of Japan’s aging population is the worst among nations and is worsened by not welcoming immigrants. The smart and hard-working citizens are their major resource.

7. The baggage from the war crimes in WW2 to its Asian neighbors is still a burden. Japanese never compensate the comfort women who are disappearing fast due to aging. Japanese leaders pay respect to the war criminals in the ‘shrines’ every year, similar to paying homage to Hitler.

Apr 17, 2014 8:06am EDT  --  Report as abuse
fyus wrote:
Well said.

Apr 17, 2014 9:40am EDT  --  Report as abuse
prastagus wrote:
finally figuring out that “china is a vital partner”? Of course de-escalation of current tension is base on actions not words alone

Apr 21, 2014 2:12pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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