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Better ties with China crucial: Japan envoy
Publication Date : 26-12-2012
Japan's new ambassador arrives in Beijing and announces that his main task is to mend ties with China
Japan's new ambassador arrived in Beijing yesterday as the country's incoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe picked a new foreign minister amid looming tension over the Diaoyu Islands.
Observers said that some members of the new Liberal Democratic Party cabinet, made up of a number of political veterans experienced in diplomacy with China, may be eager to break the ice but they will find it difficult to soften Japan's hard-line stance.
Japanese Ambassador Masato Kitera told reporters in Beijing that his "top task" is to deepen relations.
The veteran diplomat said his new post is not an easy job, and he vowed to tell Beijing of the crucial importance of economic ties for the people of both countries.
Beijing welcomed any initiative from the ambassador that would contribute to improving ties, the Foreign Ministry said.
Relations between the two countries nosedived in September after the Japanese government illegally "purchased" part of the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.
Liang Yunxiang, a professor of Japanese studies at Peking University, said "structural friction", including territorial and historical issues, still resonates in the relationship.
Tokyo continues to take a hard line on the islands, and Kitera did not come up with new ideas in his first speech yesterday, Liang said.
"Although Tokyo has sent a series of signals indicating its desire to ease tension, it refuses to make any substantial concessions," Liang said.
Kitera arrived and spoke in Beijing a day before Abe, the LDP chief who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2007, is sworn in as prime minister on Wednesday.
Abe will appoint lower house lawmaker Fumio Kishida as foreign minister, Kyodo news agency said yesterday.
Kishida, 55, served as a state minister in charge of Okinawan issues in Abe's first cabinet, and Reuters said Tokyo seeks to balance a bolder diplomatic stance with the need to repair frayed ties with China and South Korea.