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Lee: Futile to resist China's growing clout
Updated: 2005-05-25 14:17

TOKYO - Japan and China must tone down the nationalism that has fuelled rising bilateral tensions, while the world must adapt to China's surging growth or be left behind, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (R) shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Junichiro Koizumi in Tokyo May 25, 2005. Japan and China must tone down the nationalism that has fuelled rising bilateral tensions, while the world must adapt to China's surging growth or be left behind, Lee said. [AFP]
Speaking in Tokyo Lee said "friction is inevitable" between Japan and China "as both enlarge their influence regionally and internationally."

"A collision is not inevitable, because both governments see the benefits of cooperation and neither wants a conflict," he said.

"But both sides need to moderate nationalist sentiments, manage territorial and other disputes which arise and find wise ways to gradually defuse the issue and work toward reconciliation," Lee told a forum in Tokyo hosted by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun business daily.

Lee said today's troubles were rooted in World War II. Japan conquered much of East Asia and brutally occupied China in the 1930s and '40s.

"The two countries have not reconciled and come to terms with the history of the Second World War the way Germany and France have done in Europe," Lee said.

Lee was visiting Japan amid the latest spat between the Asian powers after Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi abruptly cancelled a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi over his visits to a shrine to war dead.

China says the Yasukuni shrine is a monument to World War II militarism, while Koizumi says he pays annual respects at the Shinto sanctuary in reaffirmation of Japan's post-war pacifism.

China in April saw major protests venting fury at Japan over its record on history and denouncing Japan's cherished bid to win a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Lee, who has previously criticized Koizumi's war shrine visits, said that toning down nationalistm "will also help Japan to make a fuller contribution internationally and take its rightful role amongst the community of nations."

Lee warned it was futile to resist China's growing economic clout.

"It competes with developed countries in R&D (research and development) and high-end manufacturing and with developing countries in low-cost, labour-intensive operations," he said.

"Those which stand still and resist inevitable changes will ultimately lose their export markets or see their existing activities hollowed out," he said.

Amid the tension between Japan and China, Lee said one issue where "the temperature has cooled down" was Taiwan.

He said the US position that it does not support Taiwanese independence, China's legislation stating it will use force if the island secedes and Japan's declaration it would cooperate with Washington in a crisis meant "the lines have been drawn."

"The Taiwanese public now understand that independence is out of the question," Lee said.

"Both sides of the straits need to show flexibility and creativity in order to build on this progress, strengthen their interdependence, and stabilise the situation," he said.

Singapore, a predominantly ethnic Chinese former British colony, suffered a bloody three-year Japanese occupation during World War II in which at least 50,000 civilians died but has since developed pragmatic ties with Tokyo including a free-trade agreement.

He reaffirmed Singapore's support for Japan on the Security Council but said no new permanent member should enjoy the veto power now wielded only by Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

"It would be unrealistic to expect any new permanent members in the UN Security Council to be accorded veto powers," Lee said.

"This would complicate and slow down decision-making in the UN, increase the likelihood of gridlock, and ultimately undermine the UN's credibility and effectiveness," he said.

"This would not be in the interest of any country, and small countries like Singapore would feel this loss most acutely," he said.

Nikkei falls 2nd day on Japan-China tension worry

The Nikkei average fell for a second day to close 1.07 percent lower on Wednesday as worries about tension between Japan and China cast a shadow over a market already undermined by fears that a tech stock rally could fizzle.

Steel, shipping and some exporters were dampened by the China issue, which came under the spotlight after Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi's abrupt cancellation earlier this week of a meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Stop-loss selling hit steelmakers such as Nippon Steel Corp. in particular as worries grew about the industry's future profit growth following news of a cut in sheet product prices and Wednesday's data showing rising imports from China.

The Nikkei ended down 119.22 points at 11,014.43, its lowest close since May 18. The broader TOPIX index lost 1.02 percent to 1,124.70.

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