Tokyo (AFP) – Japan on Thursday called for “constructive and stable” relations with China as the two sides marked the 50th anniversary of the normalization of relations, albeit with little public fanfare.
Growing friction over China’s military might and regional saber-rattling left ties between Beijing and Tokyo freezing, and there was no major diplomatic ceremony to mark the anniversary.
Instead, messages from Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping were read at an event in Tokyo backed by the Chinese government and embassy, and organized by the powerful Keidanren business lobby.
In his message, Kishida, who was not present at the event, warned that relations with China, “while possessing various possibilities, faces many challenges and problems.”
“I would like to build constructive and stable Japan-China relations for peace and prosperity not only of our two nations, but also of the region and the world,” he said.
Xi said in his message that the ties were of “great significance”, adding that he was ready to work with Kishida to use the anniversary as an “opportunity”.
The countries should “work together to build a China-Japan relationship that meets the demands of the new era,” he added.
The world’s second and third largest economies are key trading partners and just a few years ago looked poised for a diplomatic flourish, with plans for a state visit from Xi.
Since then, ties have soured significantly as Beijing bolsters its military, projects power regionally and beyond, and takes a tougher line on the disputed territory.
In recent months, Japan believes Chinese missiles have fallen in its exclusive economic zone, and Tokyo has protested what it calls increasing air and sea violations.
Japan also regularly complains about Chinese activity around the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims and calls the Diaoyus.
The war in Ukraine has only deepened the rift, with Japan supporting Western allies opposed to Russia’s invasion while Beijing avoids criticizing Moscow.
Japan’s brutal occupation of parts of China before and during World War II also remains a sore spot, with Beijing accusing Tokyo of failing to redeem its past.
Despite all the tensions, the two countries remain economically linked: China is Japan’s largest trading partner and Japan is China’s second after the United States.
And it has been reported that Xi and Kishida may hold talks online or in person in the coming months.
© 2022 AFP