Double-dealing undercuts Japan’s diplomacy

By Li Ruoyu Source:Global Times Published: 2016-5-3 0:13:02

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

In recent years, the relationship between China and Japan has reached a new low due to Japan's maneuvers in China's peripheral affairs such as the East and South China Seas disputes. It was against this background that Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, under the invitation by his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, visited China over the weekend. Whether his trip can bring bilateral relations back on the right track remains to be seen.

Japan has attached high importance to Kishida's visit. Prior to the visit, Kishida delivered a speech in Tokyo on Sino-Japanese relations, vowing to use this trip to advance the bilateral ties. A Chinese version of the speech was also published at the website of the Japanese Embassy in China. His remarks can be taken as a declaration of his stance during this China visit.

Kishida articulated a vision of a bilateral relationship "that is appropriate for the new era." But after emphasizing what his country has done, he urged China to cooperate in a positive manner, passing the buck to the neighbor.

As for the future trajectory of China-Japan relations, Kishida envisioned that the two countries should expand cooperation, cope with worrying issues of both sides, and cultivate mutual understanding and trust among their peoples.

Although phrases such as cooperation and mutual trust seem to indicate Japan's intentions to improve bilateral ties, Kishida's proposal to cope with concerns reveals Japan's hidden agendas.

Kishida noted in his speech, "Candidly speaking, a rapid and opaque increase in (China's) military spending and unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas under the aim of building a strong maritime state are having not only people in Japan, but countries in the Asia-Pacific region and the international community worried greatly."

His pointless accusation shows no change in Japan's stance toward China's neighboring affairs, which is consistent with the Statement on Maritime Security released at the G7 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in early April. What's different is that the statement only implicitly mentioned the East and South China Seas, but Kishida clearly pointed his fingers at China, as he is not concerned about other stakeholders.

To foster mutual understanding and trust between the two peoples, Kishida suggested attracting more Chinese tourists to Japan. He said straightforwardly that the increasing Chinese travelers have economically benefited Japan and are welcomed in the country. Apparently, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe understands that its stance on East and South China Seas issues will be unlikely to satisfy the Chinese side, but Japan has to economically cooperate with China. Therefore Kishida wants to separate the economy from politics to serve Japan's ends for bilateral relations. This may be what Kishida wants in part for his China trip.

Within the Liberal Democratic Party, Kishida is the head of the Kohchikai-faction, which has been friendly toward China. But he has another identity as Abe's henchman. The two were both elected as members of the Diet in 1993. Kishida served in six Cabinet positions during Abe's first premiership in 2007, which indicates his importance to Abe.

In 2012 when Abe returned to power, he appointed Kishida as his foreign minister. In diplomacy, Kishida has to some extent become the spokesman for Abe. Therefore, Kishida's speech prior to his China trip and his words and deeds in Beijing, can show the political intention of Abe.

Since Abe resumed office, Japan's petty actions have severely soured Sino-Japanese relations. But this is not an outcome due to sabotage by Abe or Kishida, but the result by the re-emergence of rightwing doctrines in Japan. Abe and Kishida well understand the benefits of a warm relationship. That's why Kishida visited China. But Abe's rightwing stance will make Japan's actual policies contradict the goal of improving ties with China.

Kishida was sincere about his China visit. But as long as Abe holds to his ruling principles, Japan's double-dealing in its relations with China will be unlikely to end.

The author is an assistant research fellow at the Institute of Japanese Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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