A tentative possibility has emerged for a China-Japan summit after Shinzo Abe's expected election as Japanese prime minister later this month. However, a pre-condition remains his handling of the Yasukuni Shrine issue said Feng Zhaokui, a researcher of the Institute of Japan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"We hope Abe's statements of emphasizing relations with China can be realized," Feng said in an interview.
Japanese media reported last week that senior diplomats from both countries may hold talks in Tokyo next week, paving the way for a meeting between President Hu Jintao and Abe after he becomes Japan's prime minister, aimed at thawing frosty relations between the two Asian powers.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on Saturday China had always attached great importance to developing friendly relations with Japan, but did not confirm the meeting.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's obstinate persistence in visiting the Yasukuni Shrine is the roadblock for Sino-Japanese relations, as well as for normal exchanges between the leaders of the two countries, Qin said.
"The key to solving the present difficulties is for the Japanese leader to make an early resolution on thoroughly clearing up the political barrier of the shrine visits and bringing bilateral relations back to a normal development track," he added.
China has refused to hold meetings with outgoing PM Koizumi because of his repeated visits to the shrine, seen by China and other Asian countries as glorifying Japan's past militarism.
Abe, the current chief cabinet secretary of Japan, on September 1 formally declared his candidacy for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) election.
He is almost certain to replace Koizumi as head of the ruling party and hence become prime minister due to the LDP's grip on parliament.
Abe is known for his hawkish political position, including his embracing of the idea of the shrine visits. He has defended Koizumi's Yasukuni visits but has declined to say whether he would follow suit.
While Abe tries to take an ambiguous attitude towards the shrine visit, "China's stance is clear and firm", Qin emphasized in the statement.
Japanese media have said Abe was eyeing a visit to Beijing as early as October, rather than waiting to meet Hu on the sidelines of an Asian Pacific leaders' gathering in Hanoi in November.
Such a meeting, although symbolic, would represent a chance to begin resolving Sino-Japanese disputes, such as the development of gas fields in the disputed East China Sea, added Feng.
"If the summit were to materialize, strategic dialogue between the two governments could be held to solve other problems," he said.
It's time that the stalemate of the soured political relations between China and Japan is broken, as its continuation will damage the interests of both sides.
According to Feng, Abe is less "strange" than Koizumi in his politics, and he expects more flexibility and the adoption of a strategic perspective in dealing with China-Japan relations.
(China Daily September 18, 2006)