Tokyo: Japan’s incoming prime minister Shinzo Abe will send a special envoy to China on a fence-mending mission, a report said Saturday, after he announced plans to dispatch an emissary on a similar trip to South Korea.
Ties between Japan and China have become increasingly strained over a disputed island chain — the Tokyo-controlled Senkakus, which Beijing calls the Diaoyus — with neither side willing to budge after months of bitter wrangling.
Shinzo Abe will send a senior official from his Liberal Democratic Party next month to deliver a letter to Chinese authorities, the business daily Nikkei reported, without offering details or citing sources.
The report comes a day after China sent ships into territorial waters around disputed islands, in the first incursion since Japan elected a new government.
Abe said Friday he will dispatch former finance minister Fukushiro Nukaga to deliver a letter to South Korea’s president-elect Park Geun-Hye, who also triumphed in national elections just days ago.
Tokyo is embroiled in a separate row with Seoul over a different set of islets, with tensions flaring up earlier this year after outgoing South Korean president Lee Myung-Bak paid a sudden visit to the disputed territory.
“Abe intends to improve frayed ties with South Korea and with China by sending special envoys,” the Nikkei said.
LDP officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
“I will shoulder grave responsibility (for Japan’s future),” Abe, who will officially be appointed as prime minister on Wednesday, told supporters in his constituency in western Japan Saturday.
“My mission is to bring a breakthrough in the serious situations we face in economy, diplomacy, and education.”
Abe’s sweeping parliamentary victory on Sunday was greeted with caution in Beijing and Seoul, with China saying it was “highly concerned” over Japan’s future direction under the new government.
In one of his first broadcast interviews after the parliamentary win, Abe said there was no room for compromise on the sovereignty of the disputed islands, calling them “Japan’s inherent territory”, and putting the onus for improved relations on Beijing.
Despite warm words about the importance of economic ties with Beijing — China is Japan’s biggest trading partner — Abe stressed the need to build relations with other countries, such as India and Australia.
Analysts have said at least some of this could be posturing, with some believing Abe’s LDP will have easier communication with China due to the contacts it developed during its more than half a century rule before it was ousted in 2009.
The latest report also said Abe will refrain from stationing officials or building a dock on the disputed islands — controversial policy options suggested in his LDP election pledge that would further provoke Beijing. AFP