Tue, Oct 10, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Analysis: Abe overtures to China pose no threat to Taiwan

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sunday. Japan's new PM held talks with Chinese leaders, with both sides pledging to attempt to heal damaged ties.

PHOTO: AFP

The visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to China signals an attempt to maintain his nation's position as a leading player in Asia, political observers said yesterday.

Less than a month since he took office on Sept. 23, Abe met Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) on Sunday with both leaders saying they were confident of improving relations between the two nations and stressing there was common ground between the two on many issues.

Abe's visit to China was also the first summit between Tokyo and Beijing since former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi met former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) in October 2001, and the first state visit since 1999.

But political analysts expressed caution about the speed and extent to which the two nations would be able to repair their long-strained relations after the leaders' meetings.

Tung Li-wen (董立文), deputy executive of the Foundation on International and Cross-Strait Relations said yesterday that the meeting between Abe and Hu had been in the pipeline for a long time and he did not think it signalled a breakthrough in the stalemate between the two countries.

"Abe and Hu, seem to be intent on improving relations between China and Japan, on the basis of their own national interests," Tung said.

"Even the US noticed the increasing tension of the two countries' relations and urged Abe to work to improve the situation," he said.

Tung said that what the two countries really wanted was not to solve their differences but to resurrect mutual interests submerged in recent years due to the deteriorating relationship between the two nations.

Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), director of Soochow University's department of political science said that although China and Japan have conflicting opinions and attitudes toward many issues, both their leaders know that it will harm both nations if they allow relations to continue deteriorating.

"But I think there could be no substantial progress between Japan and China from a single meeting that did not touch on concrete issues that have been affecting relations between the two countries," Lo said.

He was referring to issues such as whether Abe would follow in the footsteps of predecessor Junichiro Koizumi by visiting Yasukuni shrine, Tokyo's long-standing territorial claims on the Diaoyu Islands (釣魚台), Japan's ambitions to become a member of the UN Security Council and disagreements over petroleum drilling rights in the East China Sea.

Lo also pointed out that he did not think Taiwan would become an issue in relations between China and Japan since "they have enough complicated problems to solve."

"Neither Beijing nor Tokyo want to ruin the cordial atmosphere," Lo said.

Taiwan does not have to worry that it will be sacrificed in the two powers' interactions, Lo said.

"Taiwan and Japan share common ground on democracy and in terms of facing China's rising power," he said.

"As long as Taiwan maintains its amicable relations with Japan, an improved relationship between China and Japan will not affect Taiwan-Japan ties too much. Both countries have similar social and political structures," Lo said.

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