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New year offers fresh chance for Japan and China
Updated: 2005-12-23 14:56

Candidates to follow Koizumi who would mend ties with China include Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, Trade Minister Toshihiro Nikai and Yasuo Fukuda, a former chief cabinet secretary sidelined by Koizumi, analyst Mamoru Morita said.

Both Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Aso, another aspirant to be premier, are staunch defenders of Koizumi's pilgrimage to Yasukuni shrine, which honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead including 14 top war criminals.

Aso infuriated China at the end of the year by declaring Beijing to be a "considerable threat" due to its rising military spending.

Koizumi went to Yasukuni shrine in October just before two regional summits in South Korea and Malaysia where he made little effort to meet Chinese leaders.

It was a far cry from April, when Koizumi used an Asia-Africa forum in Jakarta to apologize again for Japan's aggression and secured a tense meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Japan was embittered over the summer when China, accusing Japan of not atoning for the past, shot down one of Tokyo's most cherished goals -- a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

"Japanese people's attitudes have changed because of the attitude of the Chinese government," said Toshiyuki Shikata, a former Japanese general who is a law professor at Teikyo University.

"China had been taking Japan to be a cash dispenser. But Mr. Koizumi made them sense that Japan is here," he said.

With Japan enjoying strong US support and pressing ahead on such controversial ventures as revising its constitution, any improvement of ties with its neighbors would mean a give-and-take.

"One has to be aware that you have structural factors in Japan such as the LDP trying to exploit nationalist feelings, the Japanese yearning to be treated as a normal state and Japan in general would like to secure a higher status in the international community," said Cheng, the Hong Kong-based professor.

"So it requires China and South Korea to appreciate the trend and to make adjustments in their postures toward Japan," he said.

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