BEIJING – Chinese President Hu Jintao has decided to pull out of a meeting Friday in Beijing with representatives of seven bilateral friendship groups from Japan, according to sources.
China told the seven groups that Hu is unhappy with Japan’s plan to name uninhabited isles near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, the sources said Friday.
Jia Qinglin, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and Beijing’s fourth most senior leader, will meet the groups on Hu’s behalf, the sources said.
The meeting was arranged as part of a series of events to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral relations, which will officially start Thursday in Beijing.
The seven groups include the Japan-China Friendship Association led by Koichi Kato, a former Liberal Democratic Party secretary general, and the Association for the Promotion of International Trade (Japan), headed by former Lower House Speaker Yohei Kono.
When the groups asked why Hu cancelled the meeting, one of the Communist Party’s officials reportedly said: “The military is against the Japanese government’s plan to name uninhabited islands. Hu’s attendance is impossible.”
The Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan, but claimed by both China and Taiwan.
An opinion piece in the Jan. 17 issue of Beijing’s state-run People’s Daily newspaper said Japan’s move “is a blatant move to damage China’s core interests.”
China is also unhappy that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government decided against sending a former prime minister to Thursday’s opening ceremony to mark the start of the 40th anniversary celebrations, the sources said.
Instead, former trade minister Masayuki Naoshima will be dispatched to attend the ceremony as Noda’s special representative.
“The Noda government does not take China seriously,” a senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying.
Tanaka to visit Okinawa
Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka is likely to visit Okinawa on Friday and Saturday to brief prefectural officials on talks with Washington about reviewing the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, according to sources.
Tanaka is expected to meet with Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima on the second day of his visit, the sources said Friday.
Arrangements for the trip began after Japan and the United States released a joint statement Wednesday on plans to revise a 2006 bilateral accord by separating the relocation of the Futenma base and subsequent return of land south of the Kadena base from the transfer of marines from Okinawa to Guam.
Under the current plan, Futenma would be moved from Ginowan to a less densely populated coastal area in Nago, which are both on Okinawa Island. Local officials and residents are deeply opposed and want the base moved outside the prefecture, which has long hosted the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan.
Regardless of the review, the central government and the U.S. still want to relocate Futenma to the Henoko coastal area in Nago and Tanaka’s visit is aimed at building local support for the plan, the sources said.
Tanaka is expected to visit the Henoko area and five military facilities south of Kadena during his stay in Okinawa.