Japan's new ambassador to China, Masato Kitera, arrived in Beijing Tuesday, vowing to mend the strained China-Japan relations following Tokyo's nationalization of the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.
Kitera, a career diplomat, told a press conference shortly after his arrival in Beijing that his first mission is to improve Japan-China relations.
The ambassador's posting came after Japan's leader-in-waiting Shinzo Abe pledged to seek a thaw in relations between Beijing and Tokyo.
Kitera said he plans to pay visits around the country, and meet Chinese people from all walks of life to convey messages about Sino-Japanese friendship. "Before leaving for Beijing, many people encouraged me, and I hope to translate that into motivation and achieve good results in diplomacy," he said.
In an interview with NHK on Monday, Kitera said he will explain to China's senior officials that "we need to make economic ties warmer if our political relationship is cooling, as Japanese corporate activities in China contribute to the Chinese economy."
At a regular press briefing on Tuesday, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had taken note of some of Kitera's remarks on improving Sino-Japanese relations.
"We hope that the new Japanese ambassador can forge close contacts with all sectors in China, boost his understanding toward the country, and make positive efforts for the improvement and development of bilateral ties," said Hua.
Wang Pin, a researcher with the Institute of Japanese Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times Tuesday that Kitera knows China and Chinese culture well, and is experienced in dealing with economic and trade issues, which could help revitalize bilateral economic relations.
But Wang noted that people shouldn't have too high expectations of the role played by the ambassador, adding that after all, the foreign policy was ultimately drawn up by the new Japanese administration.
Abe, who is expected to take office Wednesday, said Saturday that his administration wants to "make efforts to return to the starting point of developing a mutually reciprocal relationship" with China.
It is also reported that Abe plans to send an envoy to China as early as next month in a bid to repair ties between Asia's two largest economies.