Sino-Japanese ties slowly on the mend

By Le Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-12-13 06:53

Strained relations over the war-related Yasukuni Shrine issue between China and Japan have eased, but tensions resulting from China's rise still remain, China's Ambassador to Japan Wang Yi said in a report published by the Xinhua News Agency yesterday.

After serious and repeated consultations, China and Japan "have finally agreed to overcome this political impediment damaging bilateral relations," Wang said of the Yasukuni Shrine issue.

The shrine in Tokyo honours 14 Class-A war criminals of World War II, with other war dead, and is considered by China and some other Asian nations as Japan's past militarism.

"Many of the conflicts and friction in Sino-Japanese 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 different degrees," the ambassador said. He suggested that some Japanese were having trouble accepting China's rise.

"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.

"Truly smoothing China-Japan relations needs time and constant efforts from both sides."

Wang highlighted the importance of China-Japan relations, saying "be it in history, reality or geopolitics, Japan has a unique and important position in China's diplomacy".

He said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Beijing in October "broke the political stalemate in bilateral relations and offered a window of hope for future China-Japan relations".

A month later, Abe met with President Hu Jintao for the second time on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hanoi, Viet Nam.

The two top-level meetings in two months had significantly promoted bilateral ties and were widely regarded in Japan as a positive turn in the bilateral relationship, the Japanese Consul in Hong Kong, Shigekazu Sato was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying.

Japanese sentiment towards China has slightly improved, helped partly by Abe's visit to China, the first in five years, while that towards the Republic of Korea has continued to worsen, a survey conducted by the Japan's Cabinet Office has shown.

According to the government poll published last Saturday, 34.3 per cent of Japanese feel good about China, up 1.9 percentage points from a year earlier, and 21.7 per cent said the bilateral ties are in good condition, up 2.0 points. Both figures marked year-on-year decreases in 2004 and 2005.

Wang said to maintain the sound momentum for improving relations between the two countries, both should consolidate the political basis in bilateral relations, that is, properly handle such sensitive issues as the wartime history and Taiwan.

It is reported the two countries are mulling a high-level visit by President Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao to Japan.

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