Noda sends note to Beijing in bid to defuse tension

Kyodo

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is sending a personal letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao to express Japan’s wish to defuse the tensions stemming from the Senkaku Islands dispute, government officials said Tuesday.

Senior Vice Foreign Minister Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi was scheduled to arrive in China later in the day to deliver Noda’s personal message calling for deepening ties on the occasion of the 40th anniversary this year of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the officials said.

After an assault Monday in Beijing on a vehicle carrying Japanese Ambassador Uichiro Niwa, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura called the incident “very regrettable” and said Tokyo has asked Beijing to prevent similar incidents and investigate it as a criminal case.

Tensions have risen in recent weeks due to the dispute involving the group of Japan-controlled uninhabited islets in the East China Sea that are claimed by China, with a series of anti-Japanese demonstrations being staged in Chinese cities.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, Fujimura said the Chinese government side expressed regret over the incident involving the ambassador, in which theHinomaru flag on the vehicle was stolen, and pledged to do all it can to prevent similar incidents. No one was hurt in the incident.

As to Yamaguchi’s visit to China, Fujimura said Noda’s letter would touch on “developing Japanese-Chinese relations in a stable manner from a broad perspective.”

According to the Japanese Embassy, at least two cars forced Niwa’s car to stop on a major thoroughfare in Beijing through obstructions such as meandering, driving close and sudden braking.

A man emerged from one of the vehicles and ripped off the Japanese flag flying in front of the vehicle, the embassy said, adding that the flag post was damaged.

The embassy reported to the local police the man’s features, estimated age, and license numbers and photos taken by Japanese staff of the vehicles involved in the confrontation, the officials said.

The incident occurred on Beijing’s No. 4 Ring Road shortly after 4 p.m. while Niwa was returning to the Japanese Embassy.

The embassy said in a press release that Minister Hidehisa Horinouchi has filed a strong protest with Luo Zhaohui, director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Department of Asian Affairs. Luo expressed “deep regret” over the incident and said China will do its best to prevent similar incidents from happening and address the issue in accordance with the law.

The ministry said China is currently investigating the reported incident and that the country will always protect foreign embassies and personnel, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Speaking to reporters about the visit Tuesday, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba said, “We must exchange opinions and have communication right now, given the current situation involving Japan and China and the overall regional situation, including the Korean Peninsula, as well as the global situation.”

Yamaguchi is expected to stay in China for several days to discuss bilateral relations and issues concerning North Korea with Chinese leaders.