China Abruptly Cancels Diplomatic Visit to Japan
The row between the two Asian powerhouses takes a turn for the worse:
Delivering a sharp diplomatic rebuke to Japan, Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi cut short a fence-mending visit here Monday, a day early and just a few hours before she was to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Wu was the most senior Chinese official to visit Japan in two years; her trip had been described as an attempt to improve the strained atmosphere between Asia’s two biggest powers.
But Monday morning, she told her hosts that she was returning to Beijing early. On Tuesday morning, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan blamed the abbreviated visit on Koizumi’s continued insistence on visiting Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where Japan’s war dead Ã¢€” including World War II criminals Ã¢€” are commemorated.
“To our regret, during Vice Premier Wu Yi’s stay in Japan, Japanese leaders repeatedly made remarks on visiting Yasukuni Shrine that go against the efforts to improve Sino-Japanese relations,” Kong said. “China is extremely unsatisfied with it.”
Even more boldly, Wu did not leave Tokyo immediately after informing the Japanese of her plans. Instead, she delivered a scheduled speech to a Japanese business group, saying “the relationship between the two countries is not satisfactory or benign.” She then had lunch with business leaders, many of whom have been alarmed by anti-Japanese sentiment in China.
Some senior Japanese executives have warned Koizumi of the urgent need to repair ties with China. That goal would most easily be achieved, they have said, if the prime minister ended his visits to the shrine.
Before the Chinese explanation, Koizumi expressed surprise over Wu’s early departure. “It was their request to hold a meeting and I thought it would have been a good opportunity. I don’t understand why they are canceling it now,” he told reporters Monday. “If they don’t want to meet, there is no need to.”
On the one hand, Wu’s visit was destined to accomplish very little, since Koizumi had wanted to meet directly with Premier Wen Jiabao. On the other hand, the manner in which the trip ended bodes ill for any short-term accord. It’s touching on cultural sensibilities:
This message was reinforced later by China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Shen Guofang.
“We believe a good atmosphere is needed for Wu Yi to visit … The Japanese government, especially some leaders, do not have a correct understanding and unceasingly spread incorrect remarks regarding history,” he told Reuters.
“We think it was very inappropriate to make those remarks while Vice Premier Wu Yi was visiting.”
Some Japanese officials are now calling for a “fuller explanation” of the cancelled meeting given that Wu is now proceeding Tuesday on a visit to Mongolia.
“There was no word of apology,” Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said Tuesday.
“Even though urgent duty may be unavoidable, there is supposed to be a word of apology, and without it a society cannot function,” The Associated Press quoted him saying.
Other ministers also criticized the cancellation. Internal Affairs Minister Taro Aso called the cancellation “in terms of manners, lacked common sense.”
More important, Chinese and Japanese press reactions are adding fuel to the fire, so the fued is unlikely to subside any time soon.