• Kyodo

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The head of Japan’s biggest business lobby has called on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to compile a statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in consideration of the relationship with China and South Korea.

“I hope (Abe) will issue a statement that would be able to garner international understanding and sympathy,” Keidanren chief Sadayuki Sakakibara said in a recent interview.

Diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Beijing and Seoul have been strained over territorial and historical issues, but business relations have started to improve.

Close ties with China and South Korea are “absolutely necessary” to galvanize Japanese economic activities, said Sakakibara, who became chairman of Keidanren last June.

The association plans to send a large-scale mission to China in November together with two other business interest groups to bolster economic cooperation.

The business communities of each country “will maintain a certain distance (from the governments) and will play respective roles,” Sakakibara said, expressing his eagerness to continue advancing private-sector diplomacy to improve relations between Japan and its neighbors.

Looking back on the past year, Sakakibara said Keidanren was able to build a “relationship of cooperation and mutual trust” with the Abe administration, underscoring that the prime minister listened to the lobby’s request in deciding to cut the corporate tax rate to attract more foreign investment.

Sakakibara took up his post amid tensions between Keidanren and the administration after his predecessor, Hiromasa Yonekura, questioned the effectiveness of staking Abe’s economic stimulus largely on unorthodox monetary easing by the Bank of Japan.

Sakakibara also indicated Keidanren will continue to actively prod the administration into implementing policies the lobby wants, rather than just making proposals.

At Sakakibara’s initiative, Keidanren has resumed recommending that its member companies make political donations. The move, the first of its kind in five years, is widely seen as Keidanren’s efforts to strengthen its ties with the Abe government and gain a bigger say in devising policies.

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