Abe swings back at comment by Chinese official

by Reiji Yoshida

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe criticized a high-ranking Chinese official Thursday by calling his reported remarks about Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi “inappropriate” for someone of his political status.

Abe bashed State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, the former Chinese foreign minister, who reportedly told Japanese lawmaker Takeshi Noda in Beijing on Wednesday that there is little chance of improving strained ties as long as Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stays in office.

China has “no longer any expectation” of Koizumi, Tang was also quoted by Noda as saying.

Abe told reporters Thursday morning, “If (reports about) those remarks are true, I don’t think them appropriate (for one of the country’s leaders).

“I also think (they) are inconsistent with remarks by Chinese leaders expressing their intention to emphasize the importance of the Japan-Chinese relationship,” he said.

Japan’s relations with China have deteriorated since Koizumi started making annual visits to Yasukuni Shrine in 2001. The war-related shrine honors Class-A war criminals along with 2.47 million war dead.

Abe, though known as a hawk, called Japan’s relations with China “one of the most important.”

“We’d like to keep deepening dialogue and exchanges between Japan and China, and promoting cooperation in wide-ranging areas,” he said.

Koizumi reacted calmly to Tang’s remarks, saying: “I am an advocate of friendly Sino-Japanese relations.”