BEIJING – The China-Japan Friendship Association has communicated to its Japanese counterpart its intention to hold a ceremony in Beijing on Oct. 22 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the signing of a bilateral treaty of peace and friendship, sources said Thursday.
Although Beijing continues to steadfastly maintain its claims to the Japan-held Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, the move indicates China’s switch to a policy of promoting bilateral civil exchanges as part of efforts to seek improved private-sector and economic relations.
According to the sources, about a week ago, the association, Beijing’s unofficial channel to promote ties with Tokyo, made known its plan to hold the ceremony to the Japan-China Friendship Association, and sought the attendance of the latter’s president, Koichi Kato, a one-time senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and a former chief Cabinet secretary.
Due to strained bilateral ties over the islets, no official events were held in Beijing on Aug. 12, the date of the anniversary of the signing of the treaty. The friendship treaty was signed in 1978, six years after the two countries normalized diplomatic ties.
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters the government is aware of the arrangements, and said advancing such private-sector exchanges is “a good thing.”
Bilateral relations have sunk to their lowest point in years since Tokyo’s effective nationalization in September last year of the Senkaku chain, which Japan first took control of in 1895 and only since the 1970s has China and Taiwan also laid claim to the reportedly resource-rich territory.