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Japan diplomat seeks to mend ties

By Pu Zhendong | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-31 02:24

‘Abe is testing Beijing response', analyst says

Beijing and Tokyo candidly discussed bilateral relations and will continue to communicate, a Foreign Ministry statement said in regard to a top Japanese diplomat's visit to China on Tuesday.

Akitaka Saiki, Japanese vice-foreign minister, arrived in Beijing on Monday in a bid to mend frayed relations. Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin held talks with him.

During the talks, Beijing expressed its positions over problems the two governments are facing, the statement said.

Japanese media have played up Saiki's trip. Kyodo News reported that Saiki will discuss a leaders' summit with Chinese officials in Beijing.

On Monday, however, Beijing ruled out the possibility of an upcoming leaders' summit with Tokyo, which has been hyped recently by a number of Japanese politicians, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his close adviser Isao Iijima.

During his just-concluded visit to Southeast Asia, Abe repeatedly called for dialogue with Beijing without any preconditions.

But Japan should "stop using empty slogans about so-called dialogue to gloss over disagreements", Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told China Daily in response on Monday.

Yang Bojiang, a Japanese studies expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said calls for dialogue from the Abe administration are only hypocritical rhetoric.

"By insisting there is no dispute over the Diaoyu Islands and no room for negotiation, Abe himself is setting preconditions on conducting dialogue with China," he said.

Experts said that Abe is adjusting his China policy after his party's victory in the upper house election of the Japanese Diet last week, which further cemented the ruling coalition's grip on power, and sending the vice-foreign minister to China is the beginning of that trend.

Yang said Abe has not prepared himself enough to launch a leaders' meeting with Chinese counterparts in the coming days, and he is just passing a hot potato to Beijing to take the diplomatic initiative.

"If China declines, world opinion may blame China for being reluctant to improve ties, while if China agrees, the whole credit goes to Abe," Yang said. "Abe is testing Beijing's response through Saiki's visit."

Liu Xiaofeng, a researcher of Japanese culture at Tsinghua University, said a series of seemingly goodwill moves from Japan has shown that Abe does not have effective ways to mend strained bilateral ties.

"Such tentative actions at least saved face for the Japanese government, while they might be just making a gesture," Liu said.

Yang said Abe needs to make a substantial policy change to display sincerity.

Ties between Beijing and Tokyo have been strained since Japan illegally nationalized China's Diaoyu Islands in September.

On Monday, the US Senate unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the use of force to assert territorial claims to disputed islands in the East and South China seas.

It also talked about "dangerous and destabilizing incidents" since January, including the alleged focusing of weapons-targeting radar by a Chinese vessel on a Japanese warship.

Yang said it is not the first time that the US has approved resolutions against China.

"It shows that some politicians in Washington clearly cannot see the facts or do not truly want a peaceful and stable Asia-Pacific region," Yang said.

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