Fri, Oct 24, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Japanese PM Aso leaves for China as election approaches

SNAP ELECTIONS Aso credits himself with helping repair relations with Beijing during his time as foreign minister through talks on the sidelines of meetings

AFP , TOKYO

Japan’s new Prime Minister Taro Aso headed yesterday to a summit in China, hoping to show his experience managing difficult relations between the Asian powers as he braces for tough elections at home.

Aso, who took over a month ago, will take part in Beijing in a summit of Asian and European leaders from Friday, which is expected to be dominated by discussion of the global financial crisis.

Aso, a former foreign minister who has touted his record in diplomacy, is likely to try to show a leadership role for Japan, whose own banking system collapsed a decade ago under the weight of bad loans.

Analysts expect Aso to be pragmatic, despite his reputation as a conservative whose sharp tongue has often riled other Asian nations.

Diplomats said Aso would use summits with Chinese leaders to raise concerns on food safety. A Japanese woman recently fell ill from eating frozen beans in the latest incident with Chinese-made food.

Japan has uneasy relations with its neighbors due largely to the legacy of Tokyo’s past aggression. Relations hit rock bottom during the 2001 to 2006 premiership of Junichiro Koizumi.

But the two countries have since been repairing relations. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) said in a message to Aso on Thursday that there was an “important opportunity” to build relations.

“China is willing to join hands with Japan to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, expand friendly exchanges and continue to push current bilateral ties forward,” Wen said.

Aso is also expected to meet with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to seek cooperation on North Korea.

Japan’s opposition, which is pushing for snap elections, has attacked the prime minister for failing to stop the US from removing North Korea from a blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism.

The US move jumpstarted nuclear disarmament talks. But Japan has wanted North Korea to give a fuller accounting of Japanese civilians it kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies — an issue that strikes an emotional chord for the Japanese public.

The opposition has been gaining ground as voters blame Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party — which has been in power almost continuously since 1955 — for a sagging economy and corruption scandals.

Aso replaced Yasuo Fukuda, who was known for his conciliatory views towards other Asian nations and held a series of summits with Chinese leaders.

Aso credits himself with helping repair ties with Beijing during his tenure as foreign minister from 2005 to last year through talks with his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of international meetings.

This story has been viewed 1981 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top