Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi vowed in a speech to the parliament yesterday to forge ahead to mend fences with China and South Korea.
Japan's ties with both countries have chilled markedly since Koizumi took office in 2001 and began annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine where 14 WWII Class-A war criminals are honored along with some 2 million other war dead.
"Although there are differences of opinion and confrontations over some issues, China and South Korea are our important neighbors and we will ... build future-oriented relations based on mutual understanding and trust," Koizumi said in a keynote address to a new session of the parliament, which began on Friday.
Koizumi made no mention in his speech of his pilgrimages to the notorious shrine.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso echoed the prime minister's views in a separate speech to the parliament yesterday. "Developing Sino-Japanese relations is one of our country's basic foreign policies," Aso said.
Koizumi has sent conflicting messages since the end of last year, said Jin Xide, a senior analyst on Sino-Japanese ties.
Jin said Koizumi's latest remarks would be convincing only when he stops visiting the shrine.
"Koizumi wants to improve relations with Beijing and Seoul on the base of the two countries' tacit consent on his shrine visits, which is definitely unacceptable," Jin said.
He emphasized that the key factor to mending bilateral ties is the Japanese government's facing up to its history of aggression. "The shrine visits undermine the political foundation of Sino-Japanese relations," he said.
Jin asked the Japanese leaders to convert their oral commitments to actions so that a breakthrough is possible in the stalemated relationship.
(China Daily January 21, 2006)