BEIJING – A senior Chinese politician said Friday it would not be too difficult to pave the way for mending bilateral relations with Japan if Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stopped visiting war-related Yasukuni Shrine and his government admitted there is a sovereignty dispute over the Senkaku Islands.
Yu Zhengsheng, the fourth-highest ranking member of the Communist Party of China, told a group of Japanese ruling party lawmakers in Beijing that the two are major conditions for resuming dialogue with the Abe government, one of the lawmakers said.
“The current difficult situation is created by Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe. If he grows out of his former self and he reaches out to China, it will not be impossible for China to respond,” former Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga, a member of the group, quoted Yu as saying during the meeting.
Amid bilateral relations badly frayed over territorial and historical issues, Yu decided to meet with the lawmakers, who are from Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and have with close connections with China.
“Currently, there are some difficulties diplomatically. But I believe friendly exchanges like this, and exchanges between the private sector and companies should be continued,” Yu said at the outset of the meeting at the Great Hall of the People.
He added the two countries should be “friendly neighbors” and believes they can overcome the current difficult situation by “efforts of both sides.”
The meeting comes at a time when the Chinese leadership is showing a slight shift in its approach toward Tokyo in the absence of almost no high-level government-to-government dialogue.
While continuing to criticize Japan’s control of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and Abe’s views regarding wartime history, China has recently become more positive about promoting exchanges between parliamentarians, local government officials and business organizations.
The delegation’s three-day visit to Beijing started Wednesday, just a day after another group of Japanese lawmakers from ruling and opposition parties left the Chinese capital.
On Monday, the group led by Masahiko Komura, vice president of the LDP, held talks with Zhang Dejiang, ranked third in the CPC’s powerful seven-member Politburo Standing Committee.
During the meeting, which lasted about an hour, Komura told Zhang that Abe is hoping to hold an official meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping when Xi hosts a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in November in Beijing.
Because Abe’s visit in December to Yasukuni Shrine — which honors Japanese leaders convicted as Class-A war criminals by an Allied tribunal along with millions of war dead — further irked China, political relations between the two countries have remained at their lowest ebb.
Abe and Xi have yet to hold official talks since they each came to office more than a year ago. Still, China’s decision to arrange the two meetings in a week with the members of the CPC’s top echelon reflects a slight shift in the leadership’s approach to Japan.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday in Brussels, Abe, however, again called for a resumption of talks with China without conditions.
“My door for dialogue is always open. I hope China will take a similar attitude,” Abe said.
Japan’s long-held position is that the Senkakus are an inherent part of its territory and that there is no territorial dispute to be settled.
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