'Insincere' Tokyo not ready for serious talks

Updated: 2013-08-24 01:44

By Zhang Yunbi (China Daily)

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Beijing on Friday denounced Tokyo's ploy of using the media to hype a plan to hold a leaders' meeting on the sidelines of an international summit.

A Chinese source, close to the issue and speaking under conditions of anonymity, told China Daily that given the present circumstances it is unlikely that a meeting between the two leaders will take place in the near future, because "Tokyo is not sincere about improving relationships with China".

"The Japanese have caused continued problems recently regarding sensitive topics, including the Diaoyu Islands and historical issues," the source said.

"The Japanese created difficulties concerning regular interaction between the two leaders. At the same time, it is yelling out for dialogue and meetings," the Chinese source said. "This is a typical two-faced approach, which runs against the fundamental rules of diplomacy," the source added.

According to Kyodo news agency, quoting several unnamed government sources on Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seeking a chance for an informal meeting with President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit next month in St Petersburg.

The Kyodo story claimed that "Beijing said it was difficult to hold a formal talk" between the two leaders.

Tokyo's seemingly friendly gesture is in actual fact a bid to make it look like a victim of intransigence and give the impression that Beijing is responsible for damaged ties, Chinese observers warned.

Qu Xing, president of the China Institute of International Studies, said communication is still ongoing along diplomatic channels but the Japanese are "playing the publicity card".

A similar scenario took place last year just days before the Japanese government unilaterally announced the "nationalization" of China's Diaoyu Islands in September.

At that time, leading Japanese media, including Kyoto and Asahi television, publicized a plan they said was formulated by Abe's predecessor, Yoshihiko Noda, for a meeting with former president Hu Jintao during the APEC leaders' summit in Vladivostok on Sept 9.

Hu condemned Japan's provocation regarding the islands when talking to Noda informally on the sidelines.

"It is a hypocritical approach" for Tokyo to ignore the fact that it provoked Beijing in the first place and dragged the relationship into deadlock, Qu said.

"Now it is seeking a higher profile during the international event for sympathy and support," Qu warned.

Yang Bojiang, deputy director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Tokyo has actually put in place obstacles hindering a formal meeting.

Top Japanese government spokesmen have long denied the existence of any dispute concerning the islands and Yang believes such a position is an obstacle to any formal negotiations.

"On one hand, the Japanese want to repair the relationship with China but on the other hand, by creating headlines, it is trying to shift domestic public attention," Yang said.

Tension increased on Aug 15 when cabinet members visited the Yasukuni Shrine together with 102 Diet members. The shrine, in Tokyo, honors 14 Class-A war criminals.

Abe did not visit the shrine but he did make a ritual offering. The reason he gave for not visiting was because of the reaction among Asian neighbors.

But unlike his predecessors, he broke with two decades of tradition by omitting any expression of remorse for Japan's past aggression in Asia during an annual ceremony on the anniversary of its World War II surrender in 1945.

"Abe was waiting to see the response from domestic voters, especially the right-wing, then he would find out how far he could push his right-wing policies," said Zhou Yongsheng, an expert on Japanese studies at China Foreign Affairs University. Japanese policymakers prefer to "bring about policy changes bit by bit and step-by-step" instead of a big change overnight, Zhou warned.

Abe once again talked about plans to revise the pacifist constitution and sought support for lifting legislative bans on his country's armed forces when meeting with visiting US Senator John McCain on Wednesday.

"Abe has performed worse than his predecessors in handling historical issues. The Japanese cabinet has not demonstrated due sincerity regarding both the historical issues and the islands," said Qu.

An effective meeting "will be possible only when Japan has corrected its position", Yang said.