• Kyodo

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A Chinese vice premier told Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu in 1990, one year after the Tiananmen Square massacre, that he had directly asked the emperor to visit China, according to a Japanese diplomatic document declassified Wednesday.

In November that year, then-Chinese Vice Premier Wu Xueqian made a trip to Japan to attend the Sokuirei Seiden no Gi ceremony proclaiming Emperor Akihito’s ascension to the chrysanthemum throne.

Tokyo, however, kept Wu’s remarks hidden from the public, given that anti-China sentiment grew at that time following the military crackdown on the pro-democracy protest in Beijing in 1989, the document said.

China apparently wanted to improve ties with Japan through the new emperor’s first visit to the neighbor, while it may have been eager to motivate Western democratic nations to lift sanctions imposed on the country, foreign affairs experts say.

The emperor visited China in October 1992.

In the 1980s, Beijing repeatedly requested Tokyo to achieve the imperial visit to China, then one of the major diplomatic issues for bilateral diplomacy.

Japan had initially expressed positive views on such a trip, but it changed its stance after the Tiananmen crackdown, according to a confidential document compiled by the Foreign Ministry, dated Aug. 7, 1989.

A telegram dated Nov. 13, 1990, which recorded the details of talks between Wu and Kaifu, said that the Chinese vice premier met with the emperor and Empress Michiko the previous day, when the ceremony took place.

Wu was quoted by the telegram as telling the emperor and the empress that Chinese President Yang Shangkun hoped the imperial couple would visit China “at a convenient time.”

In the margin of the telegram, there was a note saying, “The understanding has been established” to keep Wu’s statement a secret as a result of negotiations with China.

In 1988, a survey conducted by the government showed the ratio of Japanese who felt a close relationship with China had been 68.5%, but it plunged to 51.6% in 1989 in the wake of the Tiananmen crackdown.

Later, Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen made a formal request about the emperor’s visit to China in talks with his Japanese counterpart in June 1991.

Akihito stepped down in April last year following a 30-year reign, becoming the first Japanese monarch to relinquish the throne in around 200 years.

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