October 8, 2009 / 8:32 AM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX: Japan's ties and tensions with China, South Korea

(Reuters) - Leaders of China, Japan and South Korea meet for a summit in Beijing on Saturday, with new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama looking to build trust with neighbors whose relations with Tokyo have often been fraught.

Here are some facts about ties among the three Asian nations.

ECONOMIC POWERHOUSES

— The GDP of Japan, China and South Korea combined accounts for around 16 percent of the world’s total output.

— Japan and China are respectively the world’s second- and third-biggest economies. Some analysts say China could surpass Japan as the world’s No.2 economy later this year or next.

— China-Japan trade grew to $266.4 billion in 2008, a rise of 12.5 percent on 2007, making China the top two-way trade partner of Japan, according to Japanese statistics. China was also the second-biggest destination for Japanese exports in 2008 after the United States. In 2008, South Korea was Japan’s third-biggest export market.

— China and Japan are the world’s first- and second-biggest holders of foreign reserves.

— Food safety has also been an irritant in relations, after public worries slowed Japan’s food purchases from China. Frozen dumplings from China made several people sick in Japan in 2008, sparking accusations the dumplings had been laced with poison.

HISTORICAL TENSIONS

— China and South Korea are critical of Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine for the war dead, which they call a symbol of past militarism. Among some 2.5 million souls honored in the Shinto shrine are 14 Class A war criminals convicted by the Allied tribunal after World War Two.

— Japan invaded and occupied much of China from 1931 to 1945, and rancor over wartime memories continues to shape Chinese public attitudes. Memories of Japanese atrocities run deep, especially the Nanjing massacre of 1937, when China says Japanese troops killed 300,000 people in what was then the national capital. A post-war Allied tribunal put the death toll at 142,000. Some conservative Japanese politicians and scholars deny a massacre took place.

— Ties between Japan and South Korea have also been plagued for decades by problems stemming from Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.

TAIWAN, NORTH KOREA

— China is always eager for Japan to clearly back Beijing’s “one China” stance on Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China wants to accept eventual unification. Japan says it accepts “one China,” but many Japanese politicians and businesses have close ties with Taiwan, which was a Japanese colony between 1895 and 1945. Hatoyama’s Democratic Party says it won’t support “one-sided” independence movements by Taiwan but also opposes any military action by China against Taiwan.

— China, Japan and South Korea are involved in six-nation talks aiming to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions. Japan, South Korea and the United States have been working closely in efforts to denuclearize North Korea. China has been more reluctant than other nations to impose deeper sanctions against North Korea, a long-time communist partner that is heavily dependent on Beijing for oil and food.

TERRITORIAL DISPUTE

— China and Japan have been at odds over China’s exploration for natural gas in the East China Sea. In June last year they reached a broad agreement on principles intended to solve the dispute by jointly developing gas fields. But progress has been slow and Japan has accused China of drilling for gas in violation of the agreement.

— Tokyo and Beijing claim sovereignty over a group of islets, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea.

— Japan and South Korea have a long-simmering feud over a set of desolate islands roughly equidistant from both countries, called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese.

Editing by Alex Richardson

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