Japan, China urged to avoid tit-for-tat claims

Japan`s chief cabinet secretary urges Tokyo, Beijing to focus on big picture.

Last Updated: Oct 22, 2010, 11:49 AM IST

Tokyo: Japan and China should focus on the big picture and avoid tit-for-tat recriminations, Japan`s chief cabinet secretary said on Friday, as public protests and sharp comments by senior officials suggested mounting tensions between Asia`s two biggest economies.

Messages on the Chinese Internet in recent days have called for protests in Chongqing, a sprawling city in China`s southwest, and a smaller city, Deyang, also in the southwest, after thousands of protesters marched last week in both countries.

China`s distrust of Japan resurfaced on Thursday when Beijing refused to say whether the leaders of the two countries would meet at a regional summit this month and accused Tokyo`s foreign minister of rekindling ill-will.

"Neither side should be nitpicking over particular comments and then overreacting," Yoshito Sengoku, the de facto No 2 in Japan`s cabinet, told a news conference.

He said the two sides should take a broad, generous approach and give each other leeway as he reiterated calls for building mutually beneficial strategic ties.

Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated sharply last month after Japan detained a Chinese trawler captain whose boat collided with Japanese patrol ships near a chain of disputed islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Concerns remain in Japan that Beijing is holding back shipments of rare earth minerals, vital for electronic goods and auto parts, following the dispute.

Thousands of protesters marched last week in both countries, venting anger and underscoring their fragile ties, strained by bitter Chinese memories of Japan`s wartime aggression and Japan`s worries about growing Chinese economic and military might.

The two governments are trying to arrange a meeting between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on the sidelines of the end-October gathering in Vietnam, but the outlook is unclear.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said last week that there was no need to rush into holding a meeting. Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue said on Thursday that whether the meeting will take place depends on whether Tokyo can create a "suitable atmosphere”.

Bureau Report