Diplo­mat: Tokyo ‘play­ing with fire’

For­mer State coun­cilor cau­tions against in­cit­ing ter­ri­to­rial ten­sions

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHANG YUNBI zhangyunbi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

Tang Ji­ax­uan,

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