Japan's New China Envoy Urges Stronger Economic Ties
Japan's new envoy to China urged stronger economic ties with Beijing in an interview broadcast Monday, after the incoming premier pledged to mend bilateral ties strained by a bitter territorial row.
Ties between Asia's two biggest economies have become increasingly strained over a disputed island chain -- the Tokyo-controlled Senkakus, which Beijing calls the Diaoyus -- with neither side willing to budge after months of wrangling.
"My mission number one is to improve the Japan-China relationship," Masato Kitera, a career diplomat who will succeed Uichiro Niwa as Japan's ambassador to China, told public broadcaster NHK.
"I will explain to China's senior officials we need to make economic ties warmer if our political relationship is cooling, as Japanese corporate activities in China are contributing to the Chinese economy," he said.
The dispute flared badly in September after Tokyo nationalized the islands, triggering protests across China that led to boycotts or attacks on Japanese businesses, with Japan's exports to China tumbling 14.5 percent on-year.
Beijing has also boycotted various events held in the both countries, including its decision not to send its finance minister and central bank chief to Tokyo for IMF and World Bank meetings held in October.
Beijing sent government boats into the archipelago's territorial waters almost every day, and upped the ante earlier this month with a flypast, in what Japan said was the first Chinese breach of its airspace since at least 1958.
"It is important to boost exchanges in various fields so as to ease bitter public sentiment against each other," Kitera said.
His comments come after Japan's incoming prime minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday also pledged to seek a thaw in ties with China as a report said he will send a special envoy on a fence-mending mission to Beijing.
Abe, who is expected to take office on Wednesday, spent much of his election campaign talking tough on China and proclaimed after his victory there could be "no negotiation" over the sovereignty of islands that both sides claim.