BEIJING – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Saturday reiterated China’s claim over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and urged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to stop his repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine.
Wen made the remarks during talks with Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, who arrived in Beijing earlier in the day for a weekend mission to mend fences with Chinese leaders.
For her part, Kawaguchi protested the recent landing on one of the Senkaku Islands by seven Chinese activists as “extremely regrettable,” urging Beijing to prevent “unlawful entry” by its nationals on the islands, according to a Japanese official who briefed reporters.
But Wen countered by repeating Beijing’s position that the islands are Chinese territory, the official said.
On March 24, seven Chinese activists landed on Uotsuri Island, one of the uninhabited islands that are controlled by Japan but are claimed by China and Taiwan.
The incident has added tensions to bilateral ties as Japanese police arrested the seven for violation of the immigration control law. The seven were later deported.
On the Yasukuni dispute, Kawaguchi tried to seek understanding from the Chinese premier by saying that Koizumi is making the visits to the Shinto shrine “in his wish for peace and development of Japan,” the official said.
Wen, however, suggested that Koizumi’s repeated Yasukuni visits have hurt public sentiment in China and other Asian countries, and stand in the way of mutual visits by Japanese and Chinese leaders.
While Kawaguchi invited Wen to visit Japan, the Chinese premier merely stated that he hopes to pay such a visit “in a good atmosphere.” Wen did not make any invitation for Koizumi to visit China, according to the Japanese official.
Since taking office in 2001, Koizumi has paid four visits to Yasukuni, and has indicated he will continue to do so. He last visited the shrine Jan. 1. The Shinto shrine, which honors convicted Class-A World War II criminals along with Japan’s war dead, is seen in China, South Korea and other countries as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.
Later in the afternoon, Kawaguchi also met with her counterpart, Li Zhaoxing, and reaffirmed that Japan and China will work closely together on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear development, the Japanese official said.
But when Kawaguchi asked for China’s cooperation in resolving the issue of Japanese kidnapped to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, Li only replied that Beijing hopes Tokyo will quickly settle the matter with Pyongyang through bilateral talks, the official said.
Land chief talks tough
OITA (Kyodo) Land minister Nobuteru Ishihara said Saturday that Japan should build a lighthouse or heliport in the disputed Senkaku Islands to demonstrate that the islands are Japanese territory.
Speaking at a meeting in Beppu, Oita Prefecture hosted by a local Liberal Democratic Party chapter, Ishihara said, “Of course Japan’s diplomatic relationship with China is important, but I think it is necessary for Japan to clearly demonstrate as a state that the islands are Japanese territory by building a heliport for the Japan Coast Guard or a lighthouse.”