BEIJING–A high-ranking Chinese official welcomed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy speech for not dwelling on the Senkaku Islands dispute, raising hopes among visiting Japanese politicians that relations between the two neighbors will improve.
Li Yuanchao, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo, expressed his “appreciation” for Abe’s approach to the sovereignty row during a meeting with officials from the Japan-China Friendship Association here on Jan. 29.
The Japanese delegation, led by former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, has been visiting China and talking to Chinese leaders since Jan. 28. Murayama is honorary adviser of the association.
In his policy speech in the Diet on Jan. 28, Abe said Japan will resolutely defend its territories, but he did not go into detail.
Relations between Japan and China have soured since the Japanese government purchased the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea from a private owner in September.
Koichi Kato, president of the friendship association, said the Chinese reception so far has been positive and that Chinese officials are eager to promote grass-roots exchanges and ties with Japan.
“The course of events is changing,” said Kato, a former secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Li, however, warned against moves in Japan to review Tokyo’s official stance on its wartime past.
“(Japan) should not back away from the current perceptions of history,” Li was quoted as saying.
Li was referring to the 1995 Murayama statement, which was issued by the Japanese government to offer an apology for Japan’s wartime aggression and colonial rule.
Abe has suggested the government will review this statement.
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