New ambassador to China upbeat on improving ties

JIJI

Masato Kitera, Japan’s new ambassador to China, said Tokyo will continue to make steady diplomatic efforts to improve relations between the countries.

Bilateral relations are now very difficult, Kitera, 60, who is slated to begin his duties in Beijing later this month, said in an interview Friday.

This is mainly because of the ongoing dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, he said.

“I hope to explain that improving economic relations can bring benefits to each nation and its people,” Kitera said. “I plan to support a variety of exchanges, including cultural and academic activities.”

The new ambassador said it is very disappointing to see public sentiment on both sides deteriorating. He said he wants people to recognize that building friendly ties is good for both sides.

On Japan’s nationalization of three of the five Senkaku islets that fueled tensions in September, Kitera said the change in ownership was intended to pave the way for managing them in a peaceful and stable manner in the long term.

“The change in ownership should not have caused a problem in relations with China,” Kitera said, adding that Japan gave China sufficient explanations ahead of the purchase.

Asked if China’s change in leadership offers a chance to improve relations, he said: “In principle, I believe China will promote friendly relations with its neighbors. In such an environment, I hope Japan and China will be able to find the desirable exit from strained relations.”

Referring to Japan’s Dec. 16 general election, Kitera said that no matter how the next Cabinet turns out, diplomatic policies toward China will involve people across the spectrum. “I expect measures to overcome the situation will emerge from such efforts.”