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China-Japan Relations On the Mend

Posted December. 05, 2006 07:07,   


The “China-Japan relationship is already on track for improvement after 5 years of political stalemate,” said Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan regarding their relationship when the Japanese minister of land, infrastructure and transport Tetsuzo Fuyushiba visited China on December 2. The icy relationship between the two has shown signs of thawing recently. Beyond normalization, the two nations are moving toward building a strategic partnership.

From an ‘arch enemy’ to a close partner

Chinese president Hu Jintao accepted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s request for visit without any strings attached when they had a summit at the 2006 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hanoi, Vietnam on Nov. 18. Mr. Hu is scheduled to visit Japan between March and April next year.

The Chinese president’s visit to Japan has long been suspended since Jiang Zemin’s visit in 1998. Next year’s visit will be the first in 9 years. Earlier, Abe visited China and met Mr. Hu and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on Oct. 8.

The thawing mood is not limited to politics. Zhang Qinsheng, the assistant chief of the General Staff of the People`s Liberation Army, visited Japan on Nov. 26 and agreed to exchange high-ranking military officials, exchange naval vessels and cooperate in defense research. Both nations appear to be broadening their relationship toward a comprehensive partnership covering politics, economy and defense.

Tang expressed his strong willingness to improve their relationship at his meeting with Fuyushiba, saying, “China and Japan are at a turning point of deepening their mutual relationship.” Fuyushiba responded to cooperation in aviation, transportation, education and tourism industries and said, “Japan puts high priority on enhancing the Japan-China relationship.”

Long-standing issues-

Long-standing issues are not resolved yet, though signs of a comprehensive partnership are in sight. Several issues have not been addressed yet, including the territorial dispute in the East China Sea, including the Diao Yu Island islands (Senkaku Islands in Japanese) and Japanese high-profile official visits to Yasukuni shrine. They still differ on the sovereignty of Taiwan. As much they confirm their difference on those issues, they agree on cooperation only in the fields of mutual interests. Critics say that they just put a quick fix on their conflicts for diplomatic gain so that their relationship has a possibility of falling into conflict.