|

Kan-Wen talks help ties: experts

by Ko Hirano

Kyodo News

BEIJING — With Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao holding an impromptu chat in Brussels, Chinese experts said Wednesday the process for mending the bilateral discord has begun.

The experts believe Kan and Wen will hold another round of talks aimed at improved relations when they attend a series of Asian summits slated for late October in Hanoi.

“The two leaders met to tell each other they don’t want ties to continue souring,” Wu Jinan, director of the Department of Japanese Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said in the Wednesday issue of the China Daily. “But meeting is only the start of efforts to repair ties.”

Following the Brussels meeting, where Kan and Wen agreed the two countries will hold high-level talks “when appropriate” and advance the strategic relationship of mutual benefits, two Chinese patrol ships disappeared from waters near the Senkaku Islands early Wednesday in what was seen by analysts as a conciliatory gesture by Beijing.

Japanese officials are now watching for China’s next move, in particular when it will release an employee of Fujita Corp. in custody in Hebei Province and how it will resume talks canceled by Beijing on joint development of a gas field in the East China Sea.

The gap between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands is so wide the two countries should avoid breaking the status quo and instead increase cooperation in the economic, cultural and grassroots areas to boost confidence, according to analysts.

“It would take a long time to address the issue. It would be best for the two sides to shelve disputes and shift their focus to advancing economic cooperation in line with the spirit of strategic relationship of mutual benefits,” said Zhou Yongsheng, a professor of Japanese studies at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing.

“Besides, China and Japan, the world’s second- and third-largest economies, can’t afford to slow the economic integration process in East Asia,” Zhou said.

Wen said in Brussels the disputed islands are an inherent part of China, while Kan replied they are an integral part of Japan and no territorial dispute exists between the two countries.

Sources familiar with Japan-China relations said that while China realizes it would be difficult to actually take over the uninhabited islets, Beijing’s goal is to goad Japan into saying there is a territorial dispute.

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said Tokyo will “always keep open the door to dialogue with China” on steps to prevent a recurrence of the collisions between Japanese and Chinese vessels in the East China Sea.

Zhou said if the two governments manage ties from a broader context, relations will probably return to the “precollision” level by the time President Hu Jintao visits Japan in November for a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.