As Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had hoped, his China visit
successfully ended the five-year stalemate in bilateral relations that had been
caused by his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi.
But analysts warned yesterday that future prospects for Sino-Japanese ties
still hinge on the most sensitive issue the Yasukuni Shrine.
Abe, who took office on September 26, is Japan's first post-war prime
minister to choose China as the destination of his first official overseas trip.
His summit meetings with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao were the
first ones between the two countries since 2001, when top-level contacts were
halted because of Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which
honours 14 class-A war criminals and Japan's war dead.
"Abe's visit, though short, is of great significance to and has made
substantial achievements in developing relations between the two neighbours,"
said Professor Liu Jiangyong of Tsinghua University.
"It has signalled an important step towards restoring mutual trust and laid a
solid foundation for advancing bilateral ties."
The summit talks covered a wide range of topics such as history, Taiwan,
politics, the economy and trade, as well as the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.
Abe expressed deep remorse for Japan inflicting grave damage and suffering on
the people of Asia, and he pledged not to glorify the country's military past
and its class-A war criminals.
Liu said that Abe's tone during his talks with Chinese leaders was a
departure from hawkish remarks made before becoming prime minister.
"That suggested Abe has paid much attention to and adopted a positive
attitude towards improving ties with China," he told China Daily.
The professor said the face-to-face meeting between Abe and top Chinese
leaders also provided an opportunity to strengthen mutual understanding and
trust "through direct, in-depth and frank exchanges of views.
"The top leaders can play an irreplaceable role in charting the right
direction for bilateral ties," he said.
But despite his praise for Abe's fence-mending visit, Liu cautioned that
Sino-Japanese ties still face uncertainty when it comes to the Yasukuni issue.
Abe, who had once defended Koizumi's visits to the controversial shrine, has
refused to say whether he will pay homage there.
Both Hu and Wen, however, stressed that to achieve the long-term stable and
healthy development of China-Japan relations, the issue of visiting the Yasukuni
Shrine must be properly solved and the political obstacles affecting bilateral
ties must be removed in line with the consensus reached between the two nations.