Ja­pan's en­voy heads for China, seek­ing bet­ter ties

The Political and Business Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

JA­PANESE Vice For­eign Min­is­ter Ak­i­taka Saiki will visit China on Mon­day and Tues­day for talks with se­nior of­fi­cials, the lat­est in a se­ries of ef­forts by Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe to im­prove re­la­tions soured by a bit­ter ter­ri­to­rial row.

The hawk­ish Abe, who ce­mented his grip on power in an up­per house elec­tion last week, has since then been sig­nal­ing a de­sire for dia­logue - even though Ja­pan has raised its as­sess­ment of the risk of China's mil­i­tary buildup and mar­itime as­sertive­ness.

On Fri­day, Abe called for an un­con­di­tional meet­ing be­tween Ja­panese and Chi­nese lead­ers - a pro­posal he re­peated on Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to Kyodo news agency. It said Abe had in­structed diplo­mats to work to­wards that goal.

On Sun­day, Isao Ii­jima, an ad­viser to the pre­mier, told re­porters that Abe could soon hold a sum­mit with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, but Chief Cabi­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga said no sched­ule had been set.

"As Prime Min­is­ter Abe has re­peat­edly said, he wants a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial, strate­gic re­la­tion­ship and the door is al­ways open for dia­logue.

"How­ever, there is no im­me­di­ate sched­ule for a lead­er­ship sum­mit," Suga told a news con­fer­ence on Mon­day.

Of­ten frag­ile Si­noJa­panese ties have been se­ri­ously strained since Septem­ber, when a ter­ri­to­rial row over tiny is­lands in the East China Sea flared fol­low­ing Ja­pan's na­tion­al­iza­tion of the un­in­hab­ited isles.

Con­cern that Abe, who came to power in De­cem­ber, wants to re­cast Ja­pan's wartime his­tory with a less apolo­getic tone has added to the ten­sion.

"Vice Min­is­ter Saiki will visit China on July 29-30 and ex­change views with Chi­nese of­fi­cials," a Ja­panese for­eign min­istry spokesman said. He did not give fur­ther de­tails.

China's For­eign Min­istry re­sponded to Abe's over­ture on Fri­day by say­ing its door was al­ways open for talks but that the prob­lem lay in Ja­pan's at­ti­tude.

Ja­pan should "stop us­ing empty slo­gans about so-called dia­logue to gloss over dis­agree­ments", the min­istry said in a state­ment faxed to Reuters.

Abe, 58, may be hop­ing to re­peat one of the few suc­cesses of his trou­bled 2006-2007 term in of­fice, when he thawed ties with China that had frayed dur­ing the five-year stint of his pre­de­ces­sor, Ju­nichiro Koizumi. One op­por­tu­nity for the Ja­panese leader to meet his Chi­nese coun­ter­part could be a Sept 5-6 Group of 20 lead­ers' sum­mit in St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia.–

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