Diplomat: Tokyo ‘playing with fire’
Former State councilor cautions against inciting territorial tensions
Japan’s strategy of labeling China as a major threat is actually “playing with fire”, an influential senior Chinese diplomat said on Thursday.
Former State councilor Tang Jiaxuan made the remarks at a meeting of the 21st Century Committee for Japan-China Friendship, an influential advisory panel on bilateral relations.
This is believed to be the first official panel meeting after the Japanese government unilaterally announced its decision to “nationalize” some of China’s Diaoyu Islands in September 2012, a tipping point in Sino-Japanese relations that increased tensions.
At a hotel in Nagasaki prefecture, committee members from both countries convened for the low-key two-day session.
Taizo Nishimuro, president and CEO of Japan Post Holdings Co and the committee chairman, expressed his concern about the situation in the East China Sea, saying “the tension should not be ignored”.
Former State councilor Tang, the committee chairman for the Chinese representatives, told Japanese panelists that territorial issues are “highly sensitive in any country”.
“A territorial issue is likely to fan national sentiments and people should resist the temptation of precariously touching the issue,” said Tang, who is also president of the ChinaJapan Friendship Association.
However, “it is an irresponsible move, playing with fire, if Japan uses it (the territorial issue) as an excuse to exaggerate external threats, accuse China of ‘changing the status quo by force’ and deliberately provoke a confrontation”, Tang said.
Nishimuro, a powerful industrial figure who once chaired Toshiba Corp and the board of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, echoed Tang’s sentiments. “Neither country should label the other as an enemy or a threat,” Nishimuro said.
Gao Hong, a senior expert of the Institute of Japan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said resuming the committee meetings “is a part of combined efforts and endeavors by both countries” to explore possibilities of repairing the nations’ relationship.
A “tangible and substantial discussion on sensitive issues” is the top goal of the meeting, Gao added.
The panel meeting was held just days after Beijing and Tokyo traded barbs over close encounters between their military aircraft above the East China Sea during a Sino-Russian naval drill in late May.
Tokyo, meanwhile, has spared no effort in hyping a China “threat” in the South China Sea on diplomatic occasions lately, said Feng Wei, a professor of Japanese studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.
At the recent Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said “Japan offers its utmost support for the efforts of ASEAN countries as they work to ensure the security of the seas and the skies”, and he offered to provide coast guard vessels to any neighboring countries that are “wary of Beijing’s tactics”.
As for the official position of China over the Diaoyu Islands, there is “no room for concession in regard to territorial sovereignty”, Tang said.
“We have consistently endorsed and dedicated ourselves to dialogue and reconciliation for a peaceful resolution of the problems,” he added.
Tang will meet with the governor of Nagasaki and attend a Sino- Japanese friendlyexchange event at Fukuoka.
Media reports said Tang has no plans to meet with Abe.