Li-Abe meeting encouraging steps in a still daunting journey
Deng Yushan

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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Seoul on Sunday, in the latest encouraging sign that the healing process of the once traumatized ties between their countries is taking hold.

The meeting, held on the sidelines of the first China-Japan-South Korea summit after a three-and-a-half-year hiatus, was an embodiment of the importance and goodwill Beijing attaches to neighborhood relations.

Tokyo should not mistake the Li-Abe talks as proof that it has done enough to recuperate the China-Japan relationship. Instead, it should seize the positive momentum, infuse more honesty and sanity into its dealing with sensitive issues, and carry out more concrete measures to help keep bilateral relations advancing in the right direction.

The meeting followed the generally upward trajectory of China-Japan ties since the two Asian neighbors reached a four-point agreement in November last year, which committed them to building crisis management mechanisms, fostering mutual political trust and improving their strategic relationship of mutual benefit.

The hard-earned deal paved the way for an ice-breaking meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Abe on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing, since which China-Japan relations have witnessed gradual -- and palpable -- recovery.

Bilateral security dialogue and exchanges between the two countries' governments, legislatures and political parties have resumed, and high-level contact has also been picking up steam. Xi and Abe met again in April in Indonesia during an Asian and African leaders' meeting.

Yet the series of heartening developments, including the Li-Abe meeting and the resumption of China-Japan-South Korea summitry, should not lead to excessive optimism. As Li pointed out in the meeting, the China-Japan relationship remains subjected to salient sensitivity and complexity, and still has a long way to go before it can fully recover.

Particularly, the visible headway should never be utilized by Tokyo, the culprit of the cold spell in China-Japan relations over the past few years, as an excuse to slack off in fulfilling its inescapable responsibility in bringing the temperature of bilateral communication and cooperation back to the right level.

In fact, Japan has much more introspection and correction to do. Its approaches to historical and territorial issues remain haunted by nationalist and opportunistic tendencies, which poses the largest potential threat to the growing yet still fragile rapprochement between China and Japan.

Thus now is no time for celebration parties, and it is incumbent upon Abe to honor his pledge to further improve bilateral ties in accordance with the overall idea of developing the Japan-China strategic relationship of mutual benefit and not to squander the current positive momentum.

Japan needs to show more political courage and foresight, adopt a strategic perspective on its relations with China and an honest attitude towards World War II history, and work sincerely with Beijing to consolidate the detente and maintain bilateral relations firmly on the right track. 


Thursday, Nov 05, 2015 1:20 pm


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