China has good reason to refuse a proposed visit to Hong Kong of three Japanese warships, Chinese media and experts are saying.
They said the ships should not be made welcome following recent decisions in Tokyo to host Xinjiang separatist Rebiya Kadeer and allow planned visits from former Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui and the Dalai Lama.
The website of Japan's Asahi Shinbun newspaper reported Sunday that the three Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) vessels, with more than 700 naval officers and crew on board, set off from Tokyo in April. The ships called in at 13 countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe and are due back home in early September.
Though the mini fleet had no plans initially to visit Hong Kong, Japan has since raised the idea of a stopover sometime late this month or in early September in an attempt to improve exchanges with the Chinese navy, said the website.
According to the report, the Chinese government told the Japanese embassy in Beijing that "it is a sensitive issue, so far there is no atmosphere for approving Japanese warships' stopover in Hong Kong".
The report quoted Japanese analysts as saying that China was expressing its discontent following Japan's reception of Kadeer, Lee Teng-hui and the Dalai Lama.
Kadeer is head of the World Uighur Congress, which is suspected of having instigated the July riots in Xinjiang that claimed at least 197 lives.
Lee and the Dalai Lama are scheduled to visit Japan and make speeches there in September and November.
A diplomat with the Japanese embassy, who declined to be named, told China Daily yesterday that Japan was still negotiating with China about the suggested visit.
An official with the Foreign Ministry's spokesman's office said the ministry was studying the case, while the Ministry of National Defense made no comment yesterday.
Hong Kong-based Shing Pao Daily News said in an editorial yesterday that "Beijing is assured and bold with justice" in declining the visit.
"The request for JMSDF ships to visit Hong Kong would ordinarily be normal practice among military exchanges with China but what the Japanese government did recently contradicts with the principal of friendly cooperation and made the atmosphere unsuitable," it said.
Su Hao, director of China Foreign Affairs University's Center for Asia-Pacific Studies, said the request from the Japanese warships to visit Hong Kong was significant because it was unprecedented, even though there is an agreement between Beijing and Washington to allow US warships to stop in Hong Kong for supplies.
The first Japanese warship to visit China after World War moored at a naval base in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, last summer, drawing national attention because of Japan's past invasion of China.
"It's understandable for the government to decline such a request at a time when many sensitive issues have emerged in bilateral relations," Su said.