Xi receives letter from Abe

By Catherine Wong Tsoi-lai Source:Global Times Published: 2015-5-25 0:38:01

President backs warm ties based on 4 political documents

Chinese President Xi Jinping's reception for the unusually large Japanese delegation in Beijing over the weekend signals China's commitment to improving bilateral exchanges while maintaining that the two countries' political ties should be built on a correct attitude towards history, observers said.

The group of about 3,000 people headed by a heavyweight from Japan's ruling party marks the largest Japanese delegation to visit China in 15 years.

At a forum on Saturday, the Chinese president received a handwritten letter from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe through Toshihiro Nikai, head of the delegation and chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party's General Council.

"History has proven that China-Japan friendship benefits not only the two countries and the two peoples, but also Asia and the world at large," Xi said, calling for joint efforts from both sides to cherish and safeguard the friendship.

During the event, Xi also made clear that, as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the crimes committed by the Japanese militarists during Japan's war of aggression should never be covered or distorted.

"We stand ready to work with the Japanese side to advance neighborly friendship and cooperation between the two countries on the basis of the four political documents," said Xi.

This is not the first time the Japanese leader has delivered a handwritten letter to his counterparts in neighboring nations.

After returning to office as prime minister in January 2013, Abe sent Xi a handwritten letter through Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of the Liberal Democrats' coalition partner, the Komeito Party, in his visit to Beijing.

In September 2014, Abe also gave South Korean President Park Geun-hye a handwritten letter through former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori, calling for talks to improve strained bilateral ties.

Observers said that while it is a diplomatic gesture for Xi to receive the letter, as he has done in the past, China should value actions over words.

Past vs present

"The continuing people-to-people exchange between the two countries has proven that China is able to separate Japan's wartime past and the present, and will not let political disputes stall cultural exchanges between the two countries," Gao Hong, a deputy director with the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

The delegation, composed of lawmakers, local government officials and representatives from Japan's tourism industry, began on Friday their seven-day visit that will also take them to Tianjin and Shanghai as well as Hebei, Guizhou, and Liaoning provinces. 

Gao said that cooperation between the two countries in areas such as economic, technological and cultural exchanges are less sensitive in nature than the troubled political ties.

Even as Japanese right wing extremists disseminate distorted views toward Sino-Japanese relations, Gao said he believes tourism exchanges between the two countries are conducive to improving the Japanese citizens' impression of China.

Tourism between the two countries dropped after the Japanese government illegally "purchased" the Diaoyu Islands in September 2012. The number of Chinese tourists to Japan had dropped 6.5 percent to 1.83 million in 2013 from the previous year. The number has recovered recently, with more than 2.4 million Chinese tourists visiting Japan last year.

Source of tensions

The forum came after Abe's wife on Thursday visited the war crime-linked Yasukuni shrine which honors Japan's war dead, including 14 Class-A criminals of World War II. 

"China has made efforts in assuaging the tensions between the two countries for the sake of maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. But it is also clear in its bottom line that a healthy and sustainable relation should be based on a correct attitude toward history," Lü Yaodong, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Abe stopped short of offering a direct apology for Japan's wartime past in his historic speech to the US Congress last month.

In an unprecedented break with postwar pacifism, Abe's cabinet submitted to its parliament on May 15 a bill that would drastically expand the scope of Japanese forces' joint operations overseas, reported Nikkei Asian Review.

"The double-faced attitude will not gain the trust of Asian countries like China and South Korea whose people had suffered from Japan's wartime aggression. Class-A war criminals have been convicted for their crimes. High-level visits to the shrine prove Abe's friendly remarks and gestures lack sincerity," Lü noted.

Posted in: Diplomacy

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