Japan writes letter to China as calls to ease tensions grow

Updated: 2012-09-01 01:41

By Zhang Yunbi and Zhou Wa (China Daily)

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A senior Tokyo diplomat handed a letter, written by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and intended for President Hu Jintao, to State Councilor Dai Bingguo on Friday.

Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, Japan's parliamentary senior deputy minister of foreign affairs, arrived in Beijing on Tuesday as Tokyo's chief messenger to ease bilateral tensions over territorial issues.

At the Friday meeting, both sides gave their views on bilateral ties. Japan's leading media stressed that the letter and Yamaguchi's visit were arranged due to the recent anti-Japan protests in China.

The territorial spat between the two nations reached a head when Japanese rightists landed on the Diaoyu Islands earlier this month.

Japanese Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura and Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, two Tokyo cabinet members, on Tuesday told reporters of Noda's decision to send the letter to Hu. Parts of the letter were made public.

On Thursday Yamaguchi also met with Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying to exchange views on the Diaoyu Islands issue and other regional issues.

As Noda's messenger, Yamaguchi took the written letter to his talk with Fu, yet he "failed to deliver the letter" to Fu, Japan's Jiji Press News Agency said.

Fu reiterated China's principles and stance, and she urged Japan to "cautiously handle" relevant issues and prevent damaging China-Japan ties.

Fu also called on both sides to make more efforts to boost political mutual trust, manage and control the issue, and work together for healthier and more stable development of bilateral ties.

Yamaguchi told his counterpart that Tokyo attaches great importance to its ties with Beijing and is willing to beef up dialogue and communication to properly handle existing issues that have seen disputes. He said Tokyo vowed to pursue the development of a cooperative relationship.

Wang Ping, an expert on Japanese studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said both sides have suffered from the crisis and are both making efforts to prevent bilateral ties "from getting out of control".

But Wang also warned that Japan is now using a "stick and carrot" approach to China-Japan relations and sending a letter to China may be the carrot.

Jiang Xinfeng, a researcher at the People's Liberation Army Academy of Military Sciences, said the calls to rein in the crisis were made with good intentions, but negative factors still overshadow China-Japan ties because Tokyo is increasingly resorting to military pressure.

Some key Japanese cabinet members recently called for their government to dispatch Japan's Self Defense Force to the Diaoyu Island waters if the situation there "gets out of control". The call has made observers pessimistic about the situation, Jiang said.

Tokyo has implemented a series of joint drills with Washington in the region recently, including an ongoing drill in the western Pacific reportedly based around seizing the islands.

"This is a dangerous move," Jiang said.

Tensions over the Diaoyu Islands issue have escalated this year, since the hard-line right-wing Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara in April unleashed his government's plans to "purchase" the islands.

Noda, battling poor domestic public support, announced his cabinet's plan to "nationalize" the islands in early July, a move that prompted further protests from Beijing.

Tokyo is believed to be considering speeding up moves in September to "nationalize" the islands, Kyodo News Agency quoted unnamed officials in the Japanese government as saying.

Ishihara, the Tokyo governor, on Friday told reporters that he "conditionally" agreed to Noda's plan to "nationalize" the islands during secret talks on Aug 19, according to Kyodo.

In a Friday news conference, Ishihara said during the talk that he expressed his intention to let the Japanese central government "nationalize" the islands on the condition it builds a landing place and other facilities for fishing boats, a move analysts say may prompt further protest from Beijing.

Tokyo has fallen into a diplomatic deadlock after its tensions with the Republic of Korea flared up when ROK President Lee Myung-bak visited disputed islands, which Seoul calls Dokdo and Tokyo calls Takeshima, earlier this month.

Contact the writers at zhangyunbi@chinadaily.com.cn and zhouwa@chinadaily.com.cn