Saturday, 13 March 2010

Xi stresses Japan ties amid protocol flap


Vice President Xi Jinping in Japan on Tuesday stressed the importance of good ties between the Asian giants as his hastily arranged royal audience sparked a political row in the host nation.

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Guanyu 道 said...

Xi stresses Japan ties amid protocol flap

Agence France-Presse in Tokyo
12 March 2010

Vice President Xi Jinping in Japan on Tuesday stressed the importance of good ties between the Asian giants as his hastily arranged royal audience sparked a political row in the host nation.

Xi, who is expected to succeed Hu Jintao as China’s president in 2012, said Tokyo and Beijing “must enhance the mutual political trust, expand mutual interests and improve the public sentiment of the two nations.”

He also emphasised China’s commitment to “peaceful development.”

Japan and China long had tense relations, sparked by former conservative premiers’ visits to a controversial Tokyo war shrine, but Japan’s centre-left government has stressed that it wants to strengthen ties.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said during Xi’s visit that Japan seeks close relations with both its traditional security ally the United States and China, saying that international diplomacy is not a zero-sum game.

But the mood was darkened by domestic political squabbling over Xi’s 20-minute audience on Tuesday morning with the 75-year-old Emperor Akihito.

China’s request for the meeting was initially rejected because it came only 19 days in advance, not a month as customarily required by Japan’s Imperial Household Agency, which cites the emperor’s poor health.

The fact that the Hatoyama government asked the emperor to meet Xi at shorter notice sparked angry charges from Japan’s conservative opposition that the government is kowtowing to rising giant China.

The head of the palace agency complained to reporters Friday about strong pressure from the prime minister’s office, saying he feared the royal family could be used as a political tool.

Since the Second World War, when Japan fought in the name of the emperor, the world’s oldest monarchy has had a largely ceremonial role and its members have been barred from engaging in political activities.

Ichiro Ozawa, secretary general of Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan, fumed at Shingo Haketa, the top palace bureaucrat, and said he should resign before complaining about the government he serves.

Hatoyama has denied using the emperor for political purposes and said: “It is very regrettable to see this situation at the time when Vice President Xi Jinping has come over for activities in Japan.

“We should welcome him with more delight as he is highly likely to be the leader in future,” said Hatoyama, who took power in September.

Xi is on his first visit to Japan since assuming his present role in March last year. He is the first high-ranking Chinese politician to meet the Japanese emperor since President Hu visited Japan in May last year as a state guest.

At their meeting, Akihito said he hoped Xi’s visit would contribute to the promotion of friendship between the neighbours, and Xi told Akihito he was “deeply grateful” to be able to meet him, said a palace spokesman.

Visits to Japan by senior Beijing officials usually prompt vocal protests from right-wing nationalist groups who drive through the streets in convoys of black trucks shouting angry slogans through loudspeakers.

Activists staged a loud protest on Tuesday near the Tokyo hotel where the reception for Xi took place, calling Hatoyama and Ozawa “traitors” who are selling out Japan to Chinese interests and disgracing the royal family.