BEIJING - Discord between
China and Japan over a controversial Tokyo war shrine has eased, but broader
tensions driven by China's rising clout remain, the Chinese ambassador to Tokyo
said in a report published on Monday.
Beijing and Tokyo have "finally overcome this political impediment damaging
bilateral relations," Chinese Ambassador Wang Yi said of the Yasukuni Shrine in
an interview published by the Xinhua news agency. "The political stalemate has
Previous Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi fuelled a diplomatic row
by repeatedly visiting the shrine, where wartime leaders convicted by an Allied
tribunal as war criminals are honoured among war dead, making it for many in
Asia an unapologetic symbol of Japan's aggression in Asia before and during
World War Two.
New Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been working hard to repair relations, and
he visited Beijing in October, shortly after taking office. Abe has defended
Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni and paid his own respects there in the past, but
has refused to say whether he would visit there as prime minister.
Wang's remarks came two days after the two countries' foreign ministers met
and Tokyo invited a top Chinese leader to visit Japan in spring next year,
breaking a long period when bitter rifts over Yasukuni deterred high-level
But Wang warned of deeper tensions between the two Asian powers.
"Many of the conflicts and friction in China-Japan relations in recent years
have surfaced over the Yasukuni Shrine issue, but the broader background is that
the national strength of both countries has risen to differing degrees," he
Wang also suggested that Tokyo was having trouble accepting China's emergence
as a regional power with trade and political clout.
"A senior Japanese official told me that China's development and rise is a
fact we must face up to, but just as the United States in the 1980s could not
adjust to Japan's rise, now many in Japan are not mentally prepared to accept
China's development," Wang said.
The two countries have wrangled over ownership of gas fields in the East
China Sea. Beijing is also wary of Tokyo's efforts to escape the limits of its
pacifist post-war constitution on military activity abroad, and has opposed
Japan's push for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
"Truly smoothing China-Japan relations needs time and constant efforts by
both sides," Wang said.