Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday handed a letter of commendation to a Chinese student for rescuing a boy from a swollen river in Osaka during a typhoon in September.
At a ceremony held at the prime minister’s office, Abe applauded 26-year-old Yan Jun for his “courageous act” that serves as a good example for young Japanese.
Yan was jogging on Sept. 16 when he spotted a 9-year-old boy struggling in the Yodo River and jumped in to save him. Overwhelmed by the fierce current, he retreated to the riverbank and ran 350 meters downstream before diving in again and pulling the boy ashore.
“I thought I should rescue him,” Yan told reporters after the ceremony. “I’ll do what I did if I ever face the same situation again.”
The ceremony comes as bilateral relations between Japan and China remain frayed by a territorial dispute over the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea claimed by China.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that Japan and China have a responsibility to contribute to global peace and stability. “We all know on a personal level that friendship between Japan and China is vital,” the government spokesman said.
Abe has said Tokyo will not budge on its stance over Japan’s sovereignty of the islands, but that “the door is always open to dialogue” to sort out differences.
Since Japan’s purchase in September last year of a major portion of the uninhabited islets from a private Japanese owner, China has continually sent patrol ships and airplanes to the area, causing Japanese authorities to remain on high alert.