State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan said yesterday that a summit meeting between the leaders of China and Japan will be possible if the next Japanese leader can completely remove the political barrier to bilateral ties.
The comment by Tang served as Beijing's latest call for Shinzo Abe, Japan's frontrunner to be the next prime minister, to shun a controversial shrine in Tokyo.
Talks between leaders of the two nations have been stalled since April 2001 due to China's opposition to incumbent Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 convicted class-A WWII war criminals.
"The future Japanese leader should make a wise decision to completely remove the political barrier to bilateral relations," Tang said while meeting president of the Jiji News Agency, Wakabayashi Seizo.
"If this problem is settled, Sino-Japanese ties will turn over a new leaf and there will be no more difficulty for leaders of the two countries to resume normal contacts."
He stressed that China has maintained a consistent, clear and firm stance on the Japanese leader's visit to the shrine.
"Currently, it is an important and urgent task for both governments to seize the opportunity to remove the political obstacles and break the political stalemate in Sino-Japanese ties," Tang said.
"China has already made unremitting efforts in this regard, and will continue to do so," he said, while urging Japan to do the same.
Tang's remarks came after a Japanese newspaper reported yesterday that Abe wants to resume summit talks with China on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum scheduled in mid-November in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Abe, the chief cabinet secretary, is widely expected to replace Koizumi on September 26 when he steps down after more than five years in office and parliament convenes to confirm his successor.
Abe is keen for talks as Japan's new prime minister with Chinese President Hu Jintao if he attends the APEC forum, according to the influential Yomiuri Shimbun daily.
But Tang's overture sent a clear message that the arrangement of the summit meeting hinges on Abe's attitude to the shrine issue.
Abe has visited the Yasukuni Shrine in the past but has refused to say whether he will continue if he is elected prime minister. He has also refused to confirm or deny reports he made a secret pilgrimage there in April.
The 51-year-old said Thursday that Japan did not need to make a freshly worded apology over the nation's war atrocities and militarist past.
Tang warned that Sino-Japanese ties now stand at the historical crossroads due to Koizumi's persistent visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.
"Sino-Japanese relations are facing their most difficult period since the normalization of diplomatic ties," he said.
Over the last five years, visits between the leaders of the two countries have ground to a halt, political trust has been undermined and the feeling of the two peoples toward each other has gone bad.
In addition, bilateral exchanges and cooperation in various sectors, especially those on regional issues, have also been compromised.
"The longer the situation lasts, the greater the damage," Tang said.
He noted that getting Sino-Japanese ties back on track is the common aspiration of both nations and the expectation of the international community.
(China Daily September 9, 2006)