A new round of sub-cabinet-level talks between China and Japan will open in Tokyo tomorrow, but Chinese analysts expect "no breakthroughs" in the thawing of frosty ties.
Leading the Chinese delegation is Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo who will leave for Tokyo today to hold two-day talks with Shotaro Yachi, Japan's vice foreign minister.
No specific topics have been officially unveiled, but Japan's Kyodo News Agency reported that the talks are likely to touch on the Japanese leader's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine where 14 convicted WWII Class-A war criminals are honored, and the dispute over China's natural gas project in the East China Sea.
A major task for the talks is try to improve degenerating China-Japan relations, without which the high-level meeting between the two nations' leaders cannot go on, according to Jin Xide, a researcher on Japanese studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"So we cannot expect any breakthroughs on a specific question if it hinders the development of bilateral relations from the fourth-round strategic talks," Jin told China Daily yesterday.
China and Japan had three rounds of talks last year, the last one taking place in Beijing in October.
The last round was stopped when Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which China, along with other Asian countries, sees as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.
China-Japan relations have grown frigid since Koizumi took office in 2001 and began his annual visits to the shrine.
Despite repeated requests by Beijing and Seoul to stop the pilgrimages, Koizumi again visited the shrine in October, putting a further strain on diplomatic ties.
Bilateral trade has been affected as a result.
Between January and August last year, trade volume between Japan and China increased by 10.3 percent year on year, about 13 percent less than the growth of trade with the EU, the US and South Korea, which registered at 23.7, 24.9 and 25.7 percent respectively, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
The key to improving bilateral ties is for Japanese leaders to face up to wartime history and stop visiting the shrine, a move that offends the Chinese people, said Guo Xiangang, an expert at the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS).
The talks are significant because communication between the two countries still functions. "I personally feel cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the talks," he said.
(China Daily February 9, 2006)