Pessimism over ties with Japan

Updated: 2013-04-27 00:25

By Qin Zhongwei and Zhang Yunbi (China Daily)

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Tokyo's recent behavior, remarks harming relations, report says

A top Chinese think tank expressed pessimism about Sino-Japanese ties in 2013 because of Japan's policies and its hard-line stance on the Diaoyu Islands, according to a new report on Japan it released in Beijing on Friday.

Japan's policy toward China will focus more on its economic interests and seek "more effective countermeasures" to improve bilateral ties, according to the Blue Book of Japan: Annual Report on Research of Japan (2013), jointly published by the Institute of Japanese Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Social Sciences Academic Press.

The outlook for the future relationship depends heavily on two unknowns — US President Barack Obama's policy toward Japan in his second term, and the development of Japan's own economy, it said.

Japanese politicians' recent provocative remarks and behavior have sent negative messages, experts said.

"China has made many efforts to mend ties, including inviting Japanese friends and important political figures to visit China, but these efforts were not reciprocated," said Li Wei, chief editor of the blue book and director of the institute.

It's difficult for China to initiate a meeting with leaders from both sides to discuss the situation in the current environment, she said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's position and remarks on the row over the Diaoyu Islands have been inconsistent since he assumed office, said Zhang Haiwen, deputy director of the China Institute for Marine Affairs.

Abe did not learn lessons from his predecessor, Yoshihiko Noda, and Abe's unilateral behavior will not help ease the nearly year-old strained relations over the islands, he added.

The blue book said Abe's Cabinet has been aggressively building its strength since taking office, and aims to enlarge its geopolitical influence, taking advantage of the US' "Back to Asia" policy.

US General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, reaffirmed on Friday the US commitment to defend Japan under their alliance. He made the remarks while holding talks with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera in Japan.

"Tensions are high in the region," Dempsey said. "We are working very closely ... There are also opportunities that come from that for greater cooperation, greater integration and interoperability, and we are eager to take advantage of those opportunities," he said.

2012, which was supposed to commemorate the 40th year of the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations, saw a sharp cooling of ties due to Japan's illegal "purchase" and "nationalization" of China's Diaoyu Islands. Bilateral trade volume declined for the first time since 2009.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reiterated China's stance at Friday's daily ministry news conference and urged the Japanese government to face up to its history.

Despite repeated strong opposition from China, a group of 168 Japanese lawmakers on Tuesday visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors Japanese war criminals of World War II. It was the first time since October 2005 that the number of visiting Japanese lawmakers has exceeded 100.

The essence of the issue regarding the shrine is how the Japanese government and its leaders understand and treat the country's history of invading other Asian countries, Hua said.

If Japanese leaders attempt to challenge the results of World War II and postwar order and do not feel regret about the historical facts, Japan can never escape its historical shadow, and there will be no future for Japan's relations with its Asian neighbors, she said.

Xinhua contributed to this story.