Foreign minister addresses diverse issues

By Zhang Yunbi and Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2014-03-09 07:48

China's top diplomat Wang Yi on Saturday warned Japan that "there is no room for compromise" on two issues of principle - history and territory.

The foreign minister staged his first news conference during the annual two sessions after assuming office last year and addressed topics that included hot regional issues, such as Afghanistan, and the new Silk Road economic belt.

Analysts said the variety of topics shows China's deepening interests worldwide and Beijing's greater will to participate in global affairs.

Tense Sino-Japanese relations have attracted much attention from China's lawmakers and senior political figures.

"If some people in Japan insist on overturning the verdict on its past aggression, I do not believe the international community and all peace-loving people in the world will ever tolerate or condone that," Wang said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - named by Reuters as a nationalist and revisionist - has not apologized for his pilgrimage in December to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals.

Some Cabinet members and figures close to Abe have also made inflammatory remarks about Japan's wartime atrocities, such as the "comfort women" issue and the Nanjing Massacre.

Wang urged Tokyo to "respect the bottom line of human conscience and international justice".

Huang Dahui, director of the East Asia Research Center of Renmin University of China, said it is "unlikely" Abe will change his hawkish, nationalistic style of governance in the near future, and Beijing should look toward the long term.

Political figures, including Abe, have drawn parallels between China-Japan relations today and British-German relations on the eve of World War I.

"Why not use Germany after WWII as a role model, rather than Germany before WWI?" Wang said.

"Only by making a break with the past and ceasing to go back on one's word can the relationship emerge from the current impasse and have a future."

Tsinghua University Japanese studies expert Liu Jiangyong said Abe's cabinet is "seeking to use the hot Diaoyu Islands issue as an excuse for military expansion and to strip away the restrictions imposed by Japan's pacifist constitution".

When asked to outline China's ongoing neighborly diplomacy, Wang said the big picture remains "stable and positive".

The Foreign Minister also issued a clear warning against groundless territorial accusations and provocations, which observers said is a response to lingering challenges related to the South China Sea issue, especially from the Philippines.

"We will never bully smaller countries, yet we will not accept unreasonable denouncements from smaller countries," he said.

Media reports in late February said the Philippines' defense ministry has planned to place China's Huangyan Islands under the jurisdiction of its western command, and the country's armed forces will "act when the time comes".

"We will not take anything that is not ours, but we will defend every inch of territory that belongs to us," Wang said.

Wu Shicun, head of the National Institute of South China Sea Studies, said the Philippines may seek more engagement of armed forces, local fishermen and legal arbitration to boost its claims this year.

"It will not be an easy year for the South China Sea issue, and the complexity is growing because of the mounting bets placed by regional outsiders, such as the United States," Wu said.

In a retrospect of the Sino-US diplomatic relationship's 35 years, Wang said: "Our experiences and lessons of these 35 years come down to one point: We need to respect each other."

The foreign minister said the relationship is "both extremely important and extremely complicated", and cooperation "far outweighs divergence".

The relationship witnessed landmark moments last year, such as the meeting between President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama at the Annenberg Retreat in California. It also saw ups and downs in regard to core interests.

Wang said on Saturday: "When the two sides truly respect each other's sovereignty, territorial integrity, social system, development path, core interests and major concerns, (ties') foundation will be solid enough to withstand storms."

Renmin University of China international relations professor Jin Canrong said that even when both sides are devoted to cooperation, Washington may sometimes take moves to contain China - a practice that seems to have become a ritual within bilateral ties. "However, the big picture has not drifted away toward a conflict but rather has remained focused on building a new type of relationship between major powers, which has been a consensus," Jin said.

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