Chinese Premier Making 'Ice-thawing' Visit to Japan

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao heads to Japan this week on what he calls an "ice-thawing" visit.  The three-day trip (starting April 11), the first by a Chinese premier in about seven years, aims to improve relations strained by disputes over historical and territorial issues. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Beijing.  

It was only two years ago, in April 2005, that mobs - with the Chinese government's consent - rampaged through the streets of Beijing and other cities, throwing rocks at the Japanese embassy and Japanese restaurants. 

The mobs' anger was directed at Japan because of atrocities during Japan's occupation of China in the first half of the 20th century.  That anger, never far below the surface, had been re-awakened by the glossing over of Japan's actions during the occupation in one of its periodic rewritings of its history books.

China's collective memory of that era persists, but the Chinese leadership appears ready to focus on the more immediate issues of trade, energy, and regional security.

Speaking in Beijing ahead of the visit, Premier Wen Jiabao urged Japanese leaders not to damage relations again by resuming visits to the Yasukuni shrine near Tokyo, where convicted war criminals are among the war dead honored. Such visits are taken as a sign that Japan has yet to repent fully for its actions before and during World War II.

Mr. Wen said a halt to these visits is essential if Sino-Japanese relations are to make a new start.

"To take history as a mirror is to learn lessons from history, and to build a new road of cooperation between China and Japan," Mr. Wen said.

Relations between the two nations were damaged by repeated visits to the shrine by Japan's previous prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi.  Mr. Koizumi ignored Beijing's protests at the visits.  But ties have improved since September, when he was replaced by Shinzo Abe, who promptly made a good-will visit to Beijing.

Abe has not visited Yasukuni since taking office, although he has not committed to refraining from such visits.

Another issue that remains unresolved is the dispute over control of potential gas and oil fields in the East China Sea, between the two countries.

Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Beijing's Renmin University, says both sides are willing to overlook these disputes for the sake of moving on to more important and immediate matters.

"These disputes, in my opinion, cannot be resolved completely in the foreseeable future," Shi says. "It is impossible to resolve disputes over things like China's military buildup, Japan's drive to expand the role of its military, suspicions over each other's strategies, the East China Sea and other territorial disputes, and the visits to the shrine."

Shi says both sides are using the thaw in relations to look at the bigger picture.

"Both sides know very clearly that they must prevent any of these disputes from getting out of hand, and take a gradual approach," Shi says.

Willy Lam is a China specialist with the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S. research organization.  He says that beyond the disputes over territory and history, there is a wider and perhaps more far-reaching matter to address: the brewing economic rivalry between Japan, the leading economy in Asia, and China, which is catching up fast.

"On the one hand, the contradictions - and in fact, competition - between China and Japan on a host of issues, particularly the fact that which country is the so-called top dog of Asia, such competition and contradiction are intense. 

However, both countries also realize that they are, after all, the two most important and powerful countries in Asia, and both countries still have a very good economic and technological relations. Beijing still needs Japanese high-tech in certain areas of its economy. And there are many problems in Asia which cannot be solved without full-fledged cooperation between Tokyo and Beijing," Lam says.

One of those problems is the North Korean nuclear crisis, which Tokyo and Beijing have worked closely with other nations to resolve. 

On Friday, a Japanese embassy official in Beijing said the two leaders plan to set up a "high-level economic dialogue." The official said the economic dialogue would be similar to the "strategic dialogue" launched by China and the United States last year.

Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Japan begins April 11th, after a stop in South Korea. In Tokyo, he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Abe and address the Japanese parliament.


This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs