Basic factors drive China, Japan apart
By Robert Marquand (Christian Science Monitor)
Updated: 2005-12-29 19:58
The growing trade between Japan and China in 2005 has been matched by rising
symbolic and verbal provocations and a steady decline in public opinion and
diplomatic ties - marking a new nadir in relations between the most important
competitors for Asia's future.
And the year is ending on a sour note. Last week, China formally declared a
policy of "peaceful development" as it rises economically in Asia. But within 24
hours, Japan's new foreign minister, Taro Aso, warned that China's nuclear
program and military development "pose a considerable threat," the first
time a Japanese foreign minister has made such a bald statement of concern.
"This could possibly be the worst period of Sino-Japanese relations since
World War II," says James Mulvenon, Asia specialist at the Center for
Intelligence Research and Analysis in Washington.
Relations between the historic Pacific rivals immediately plummeted at the
start of this calendar year. Japan surprised China in February, on the first day
of its biggest national holiday, Spring Festival, by saying it claimed formal
control of the disputed Senkaku (or Diaoyu) islands in the oil-rich East China
Sea. The year has now ended with rhetorical salvos, with Beijing describing the
Japanese foreign minister's comments about China's military last week as "highly
Two days after Mr. Aso's warning, Tokyo announced it would jointly develop a
naval SM-3 missile interceptor with the US, part of a "nuclear missile shield,"
for use on Japan's advanced Aegis-system destroyers that are expected to be
launched in 2008. The US and Japan have been developing closer formal military
ties since early this year.