Friendly nods, but gaps over history

Friendly nods, but gaps over history
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

JAKARTA - The bilateral summit meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly proceeded in a calm manner from beginning to end, an atmosphere completely changed from that of the previous Japan-China summit meeting in November last year.

According to sources who attended the meeting on Wednesday, Xi nodded many times in response to Abe's words.

In a speech at the Asian-African Conference, also known as the Bandung Conference, Abe did not mention China's maritime advances into areas such as the South China Sea and East China Sea, which is believed to have helped encourage China take a softer line toward Japan in return.

At the beginning of the bilateral summit meeting in November last year, Xi maintained a stony expression while shaking hands with Abe, and did not exchange any words with him.

However, there appears to have been no major change in the Xi administration's basic position.

"Ignore him." "Don't hold such a meeting."

Internet message boards in China were flooded with such negative messages after Chinese media reported Wednesday morning the possibility that a Japan-China summit meeting would be held in Jakarta.

Ahead of the ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of what it calls "the victory in the Chinese people's war of resistance against Japan" as well as the "antifascist war," China has been waging a propaganda campaign to restrain Japan over historical perceptions. In the campaign, China has called for Japan to adhere to the statement issued by former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the war's end.

In relation to Abe's speech, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said, "The international community expects Japan to directly face its history of aggression, reflect on that history and then promote reconciliation with neighbouring countries in Asia."

Another Chinese researcher who is familiar with issues concerning relations between Japan and China has said Abe's speech was insufficient.

"At the 2005 Bandung Conference, held as a summit meeting to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its inauguration, then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's speech [in which he expressed an apology for Japan's colonial rule] led to an improvement in bilateral relations between Japan and China," the researcher said.

Takekoshi is a correspondent based in Beijing.

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