CHINA / National

Abe wants strong China ties, avoids shrine issue
Updated: 2006-08-03 10:42

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, the favorite candidate for Japan's next prime minister, said he personally wants a strong Sino-Japanese relationship that would serve the common interests of both countries at a high-profile forum sponsored by the China Daily, Peking University and Japanese think-tank Genron NPO in Tokyo on Thursday.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe speaks at the Tokyo-Beijing Forum sponsored by China Daily, Peking University and the Japanese think tank Genron NPO in Tokyo August 3, 2006. []

Abe attributed the current difficulty in bilateral ties to "misunderstandings" that have occurred between the two Asian giants since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1972.

During his keynote speech at the two-day Tokyo-Beijing Forum, Abe did not touch on the sensitive issue of whether he, if elected as Japan's next PM, would continue in Koizumi's footsteps and pay homage at the Yasukuni Shrine, the core stone harming the two countries' political ties.

Shortly after taking office in 2001, Koizumi began making pilgrimages to the shrine, which honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 Class A war criminals, a move that has harmed the two countries' political ties for the past five years.

Abe cited some figures to illustrate the current status of China-Japan ties.

According to Abe, in 1980, 78 per cent of Japanese people had positive attitudes towards China, but this percentage had dropped to only 32 per cent some 25 years later. In China, only 15 per cent of the population said they feel positively towards Japan.

"For me, these are shocking figures. We must build a China-Japan relationship that will encourage these figures to increase naturally. One of the reasons the figures are currently so low is likely due to misunderstandings (between the two countries)," Abe said during his speech.

The theme of this year's forum is "Facing Asia's Future -- Building New China-Japan Relations". This is the second forum. The first was held in Beijing in August last year.

Abe also did not mention the building of a new Japanese National Cemetery where visiting foreign leaders could lay wreaths to honor Japan's war dead, an issue that is occasionally reported in the Japanese press. If such a site were to be built, the embarrassing conflict concerning the Yasukuni Shrine would die out. 

Chinese ambassador to Japan Wang Yi told the forum that if Tokyo decides to remove the political obstacles that have chilled the relationship between the two countries Beijing is sure to respond with good will.

Wang said that one of the crucial issues facing the two is to re-establish mutual understanding and trust, on which a cordial relationship is possible, as witnessed and experienced by the old generations of Chinese and Japanese leaders.

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