Beijing turns cold shoulder to Japan

Updated: 2013-12-31 01:28

By Li Xiaokun in Beijing, Cai Hong in Tokyo and Zhang Yuwei in New York (China Daily)

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Chinese leaders vow not to meet with Abe after his visit to shrine

Beijing has declared Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe "not welcome" by the Chinese people and said Chinese leaders won't meet him.

It is China's toughest stance since tensions flared last year between the Asian powerhouses over China's Diaoyu Islands.

Analysts said Abe must apologize for his visit to a shrine honoring war criminals and promise not to visit it again if he really wants to mend ties with neighbors.

"It is Abe who has shut the door on talks with Chinese leaders," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a daily news briefing on Monday, referring to Abe's Dec 26 visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 Class-A World War II criminals.

"Since assuming office, Abe has miscalculated China-Japan ties and made one mistake after another," Qin said, calling the war criminals fascists and Nazis of Asia.

During his visit to the shrine, the first by a sitting Japanese prime minister since 2006, Abe said that relations with China and South Korea were important and he hoped "for an opportunity to explain to China and South Korea that strengthening ties would be in the national interest".

Liu Jiangyong, an expert on Japanese studies at Tsinghua University, said, "As the international community has questioned Abe's visit, an apology or a promise of no more visits will be more sincere than his offer for explanation."

Abe's call for a chance to explain the matter is an attempt to put the ball back into the court of China and South Korea, he said.

Qin said that doors will remain open for people-to-people exchanges.

David Fouquet, president of the European Institute for Asian Studies, said any prospects of dialogue between Chinese and Japanese governments may enter a frosty period comparable to that during the administration of former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, who had no direct contact following his repeated visits to the shrine.

As for China-Japan ties, "more emphasis should therefore be placed on business, cultural and personal contacts", he said.

Wang Xinsheng, a professor of Japanese studies at Peking University, said it is unlikely Chinese leaders would meet Abe at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit scheduled next year in Beijing if tensions continue.

Abe has asked for communication with China since his second term began one year ago.

Chinese leaders have not officially met with him though, due to simmering tensions between the neighbors over territorial and historic issues.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said during a European trip in November that she saw no point in having a summit with the Japanese leader unless Tokyo apologized for its wartime wrongdoings.

China, South Korea and Japan skipped their annual trilateral summit this year despite Tokyo's efforts to push for the meeting.

Right-wing trend

In a fresh sign of right-wing forces rearing their heads in Japan, the Japan Restoration Party, the country's second-largest opposition party, is planning to launch a signature initiative throughout the country in 2014 to ask the Japanese government to withdraw the 1993 statement by Japan's former chief Cabinet secretary Yohei Kono.

The statement acknowledged that comfort women were coerced by the Japanese army and offered an apology expressing Japan's remorse over the issue.

The signature campaign argues that the Kono statement defiles Japan's image.

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Mo Jingxi in Beijing and Li Xiaofei in Brussels contributed to this story.