Japan government support slides on handling of China row

Japan`s govt has urged calm and repeatedly said ties with China are vital.

Tokyo: Support for Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan`s government has slid to around 50 percent due to voter dissatisfaction with Tokyo`s handling of a bitter territorial feud with Beijing, newspaper polls showed on Monday.

Ties between the world`s two biggest economies deteriorated sharply after Japan`s Coast Guard detained a Chinese trawler skipper whose boat collided last month with two patrol ships near islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by both countries.

Kan, who has been under fire domestically for seeming to cave into Beijing`s demands to free the Chinese fishing boat captain, is expected to seek other countries` understanding for Japan`s stance at an Asia-Europe summit on Monday and Tuesday.

He said on Sunday that he had no plan for formal talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, also attending the October 04-05 summit.

Voter support for Kan`s government dropped to 49 percent from 64 percent from last month, a survey by the Mainichi newspaper showed. Another poll by the Yomiuri newspaper showed a fall to 53 percent from 66 percent in the previous survey.

More than 70 percent of respondents to both surveys said it was inappropriate for Japanese prosecutors to release the Chinese captain without concluding whether to indict him. Around 40 percent in the Yomiuri survey said the move gave the impression that Japan would cave into pressure from foreign countries.

Trade ties concern

On Saturday, more than 2,000 conservative activists rallied in Tokyo to blast the government`s handling of the affair.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, the de facto No 2 in Kan`s government, said the public would eventually come round.

"Once a bit more time has passed, I think we can gain the understanding of the public that the arrest and the subsequent release was the right thing, the only thing (to do)," he said in an interview on Saturday.

Beijing has released three Japanese citizens who had been detained on suspicion of illegally entering a military zone.

The spat has raised concerns about damage to trade ties at a time when Japan is increasingly reliant on China`s dynamism for growth. China became Japan`s biggest trading partner last year.

"To further develop Asian economic growth, what is needed more than anything is the enrichment, strengthening and development of strategic, mutually beneficial relations between Japan and China," Sengoku said.

Tokyo has urged calm and repeatedly said ties with China are vital. But it is also worried about Beijing`s military build-up and stepped-up regional maritime activities.

Tokyo also seems to be struggling to agree on a common message to China.

A senior ruling party lawmaker called China a "bad neighbour" over the weekend, prompting current and former foreign ministers to play down the remark and stress the need to deepen ties.

Bureau Report

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