New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi arrived in China Tuesday for a four-day visit in a bid to mend bilateral ties strained over control over the Senkaku Islands, hoping to meet China’s incoming president, Xi Jinping.
The head of the junior coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is carrying a letter from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and is the first senior lawmaker from the new ruling coalition to travel to China since the current government was formed in late December.
“I’d like to make a step toward opening the door to normalizing relations,” Yamaguchi told reporters at Haneda airport in Tokyo before his departure. “I want to pave the way for dialogue.”
Yamaguchi is also hoping to hold talks with two other members of China’s new Politburo Standing Committee, Zhang Dejiang and Wang Qishan.
If Yamaguchi can meet Xi, he is expected to tell the new Chinese leader, who replaced Hu Jintao as head of the Communist Party of China in November, that Japan is looking forward to holding a bilateral summit in the near future.
He will propose that the dispute over the Japan-controlled islets in the East China Sea should not become an obstacle to the development of ties between Asia’s two biggest economies.
Yamaguchi told reporters Monday that settlement of the dispute over the sovereignty of the Senkakus should be left to future generations.
Advisers spar over islets
Advisers to the Japanese and Chinese governments sparred verbally during a weekend foreign-policy forum in Hong Kong over the two countries’ competing claims to a cluster of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, the South China Morning Post reported Monday.
In a speech read out on behalf of Japan’s top foreign policy adviser, Shotaro Yachi, at the China Energy Fund Committee forum, former Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Takujiro Hamada said China did not claim sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands until 1971, when the United States included them in the area over which administrative rights were reverted to Japan.
“The PRC (China) made absolutely no ownership claim between the end of the Second World War and the year 1971,” Takujiro said in reading out Yachi’s speech.
“You are now asserting the claim by force. One must say that the act alone is breaching the rule of international order,” he said. “I should like to ask you: Is this a China you want to show to the world? Is this a China that your children will be proud of?
“My message to the Chinese is that now it is time for you to be content about who you are and what you have accomplished. Now it is time for you to be a good neighbor of Japan, a good neighbor to the Philippines and a good neighbor to Vietnam,” he said, alluding to China’s territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
“Use of force and intimidation will buy you no good will from your neighbor or that of the international community. You will be a superpower — much feared but not much liked.”
Yachi’s speech drew a fierce response at the forum from retired People’s Liberation Army Maj. Gen. Pan Zhenqiang, now an adviser to Beijing, who called it “rude and arrogant” and warned Japan to treat China as an enemy at its peril.