BEIJING – The 35th anniversary of Japan-China peace and friendship treaty passed quietly Monday, with no official events to mark the occasion as relations remain frayed by the Senkaku Islands territorial dispute.
A two-day forum of about 100 experts from the two countries had been scheduled to be held in Beijing, but it was postponed at China’s request.
The annual forum has been jointly organized by the Japanese nonprofit think tank Genron NPO and the state-controlled China Daily newspaper since 2005.
While China’s major media outlets did not touch on the anniversary Monday, its Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the two countries should resolve the current difficulties “in a spirit of taking history as a mirror and looking ahead to the future.”
The Japanese think tank and the Chinese newspaper released the results of their annual opinion survey last week, which showed that more than 90 percent of both Japanese and Chinese have negative feelings toward each other’s country, the worst since similar polls began in 2005.
One of the major reasons cited in the survey was the dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Bilateral relations sank to their lowest point in years when the Japanese central government effectively nationalized the uninhabited islets last September.
The move sparked violent anti-Japan protests across China, where the island chain is called Diaoyu.
Chinese authorities are reportedly nervous about any sign of unrest in the run-up to the first anniversary on Sept. 11.
The friendship treaty was signed in 1978, six years after diplomatic ties were normalized.
The accord stipulates that the two countries will develop bilateral relations based on the principles of “mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence.”
It also says that the two countries “in their mutual relations (shall) settle all disputes by peaceful means and shall refrain from the use or threat of force.”
On Monday, a cross-party delegation of younger Japanese lawmakers held talks with Yang Yanyi, assistant minister of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Department, and other officials in Beijing.
The nine-member delegation, headed by Kiyohiko Toyama of New Komeito, said it agreed with the Chinese officials on the need to improve bilateral ties.
The Chinese officials insisted that it would be difficult to overcome the current difficult political situation unless Japan admits the existence of “a territorial dispute” over the islets, according to Toyama.
Yang, a former director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Asian Affairs, told the delegation that Japan is not taking “proper action,” Toyama said.