China’s president meets Abe in sign of thawing relations
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday vowed to uphold Japan’s past apologies for World War II and expected to discuss with China about the newly established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
In a sign of thawing relations, President Xi Jinping and Abe agreed to improve the key relationship, which has gone through ups and downs due to the Abe government’s stance on historical and territorial issues.
The meeting can be seen as a repeat of history. One decade ago, then-president Hu Jintao had an eye-catching meeting with Junichiro Koizumi, then the Japanese prime minister, in Jakarta on the sidelines of the summit marking the 50th anniversary of the Bandung Conference. The meeting helped thaw relations shadowed by Japan’s stance on historical and Taiwan issues.
“The Japanese Cabinet and I have promised at many sites that we will continue to adhere to the past Japanese governments’ understanding on historical issues, including the Murayama Statement,” Abe told Xi, according to a news release issued after the meeting. “The stance will not change,” Abe said in the meeting on the sidelines of a summit marking the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference, which promoted cooperation between developing countries in Asia and Africa.
In 1995, then-prime minister Tomiichi Murayama of Japan officially apologized for his nation’s wartime aggression and atrocities.
Abe said, “I expect very much to improve Japan-China relations,” adding that Japan will follow a path of peaceful development and will not see China as a threat.
Xi said both sides should take “active policies toward each other”, adding that Beijing will strengthen communication with Tokyo and push forward mutual understanding among people. He shook hands with Abe before the talks started. Xi urged Japan to seriously take Asian neighbors’ concerns and face up to historical issues. “Leaders of the two countries should shoulder due responsibilities” for regional stability and prosperity, Xi said.
The leaders agreed to implement the four-point agreement reached when they met on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Beijing in November, in which they agreed to resume political, diplomatic and security dialogue while acknowledging different positions on the Diaoyu Islands.
Shi Yinhong, an expert on international relations at Renmin University of China, said the meeting signals that confrontation between China and Japan has eased.
Yang Bojiang, deputy director of the Institute of Japan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said ties need time to be repaired.
Speaking at the summit earlier that day, Abe had expressed Japan’s “deep remorse” over World War II without issuing a direct apology.
Asked about Abe’s comments, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in Beijing that the global community is “looking forward to seeing that Japan can squarely face and reflect upon its history of aggression”.
Former prime minister Murayama on Tuesday criticized Abe’s statement that he will not repeat the wordings of “apology” and “aggression” in the 70th anniversary of World War II statement in August.
On Tuesday, Abe sent an offering to the Yasukuni Shrine, before more than 100 Japanese lawmakers visited the shrine on Wednesday. The shrine honors Japan’s war dead, including 14 Class-A war criminals from World War II.