Praise for man who called for friendship
By Chong Zi and Qin Jize
Updated: 2008-05-09 07:19

TOKYO: President Hu Jintao yesterday spoke highly of Daisaku Ikeda, honorary president of Soka Gakkai International (SGI), for his contribution to the friendship between China and Japan.

The SGI is a Buddhist association with about 12 million members in 190 countries.

Ikeda established the Momei ("clean government") political party in 1964, based on the Buddhist principles of compassion and respect for life.

At that time, he made one policy proposal: "that the Komei Party build into its foreign policy the formal recognition of the People's Republic of China and the party's intention that Japan works to normalize diplomatic relations between the two nations."

In 1968, Ikeda called for restoring Sino-Japanese ties before 20,000 Soka Gakkai university students. He also called for the normalization of Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations and outlined steps toward achieve it. At the time, China was perceived as an enemy by many in Japan and was isolated from the international community.

Ikeda's proposal drew condemnation, but also caught the attention of those who were interested in restoring relations between the two, including Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai.

One person who supported the normalization of relations was Kenzo Matsumura, a member of the House of Representatives, the Lower House of Japan's Diet. He approached Ikeda following his speech and urged him to visit China.

Ikeda felt this was a matter for politicians and suggested representatives of the Komei Party should make the visit.

Thus, a chain of events was set in motion, culminating in the restoration of diplomatic ties in 1972.

(China Daily 05/09/2008 page3)