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.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs