Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, the favorite candidate for Japan's next
prime minister, said he personally wants a strong Sino-Japanese relationship
that would serve the common interests of both countries at a high-profile forum
sponsored by the China Daily, Peking University and Japanese think-tank Genron
NPO in Tokyo on Thursday.
Japanese Chief Cabinet
Secretary Shinzo Abe speaks at the Tokyo-Beijing Forum sponsored by China
Daily, Peking University and the Japanese think tank Genron NPO in Tokyo
August 3, 2006. [chinadaily.com.cn]
Abe attributed the current difficulty in bilateral ties to
"misunderstandings" that have occurred between the two Asian giants since the
two countries established diplomatic ties in 1972.
During his keynote speech at the two-day Tokyo-Beijing Forum, Abe did not
touch on the sensitive issue of whether he, if elected as Japan's next PM, would
continue in Koizumi's footsteps and pay homage at the Yasukuni Shrine, the core
stone harming the two countries' political ties.
Shortly after taking office in 2001, Koizumi began making pilgrimages to the
shrine, which honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 Class A war
criminals, a move that has harmed the two countries' political ties for the
past five years.
Abe cited some figures to illustrate the current status of China-Japan ties.
According to Abe, in 1980, 78 per cent of Japanese people had positive
attitudes towards China, but this percentage had dropped to only 32 per cent
some 25 years later. In China, only 15 per cent of the population said they feel
positively towards Japan.
"For me, these are shocking figures. We must
build a China-Japan relationship that will encourage these figures to increase
naturally. One of the reasons the figures are currently so low is likely due to
misunderstandings (between the two countries)," Abe said during his speech.
The theme of this year's forum is "Facing Asia's Future -- Building New
China-Japan Relations". This is the second forum. The first was held in Beijing
in August last year.
Abe also did not mention the building of a new
Japanese National Cemetery where visiting foreign leaders could lay wreaths to
honor Japan's war dead, an issue that is occasionally reported in the Japanese
press. If such a site were to be built, the embarrassing conflict concerning the
Yasukuni Shrine would die out.
Chinese ambassador to Japan Wang Yi told the forum that if Tokyo decides
to remove the political obstacles that have chilled the relationship between the
two countries Beijing is sure to respond with good will.
Wang said that one of the crucial issues facing the two is to re-establish
mutual understanding and trust, on which a cordial relationship is possible, as
witnessed and experienced by the old generations of Chinese and Japanese