BEIJING--The head of Japan's largest business lobby says Japan's argument that no territorial issue exists with China defies common sense, given the raging row over sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
"Clearly, China has very serious concerns about this issue. So it is hard to understand the Japanese government's stance that no (territorial) problems exist," said Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), on Sept. 27.
Yonekura blasted Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's handling of the issue, which triggered violent protests in dozens of Chinese cities and sent bilateral relations into a tailspin just as the two countries were to mark the 40th anniversary of formalized diplomatic ties.
"The (government's) stance (that no territorial problems exist) will not be accepted in private-sector negotiations," Yonekura added. "I wish the Japanese government would not cling to this stance."
Yonekura made the comments in a news conference after he met here with Jia Qinglin, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and other officials.
Yonekura's outburst was triggered by his belief that the Japanese government's handling of the issue is endangering the safety of Japanese people and companies in China. He also takes issue with the government for not giving sufficient consideration to the impact the row over the Senkaku Islands is having on the economy.
Yonekura met Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai immediately before his Sept. 26 departure to Beijing, according to sources involved in Japan-China relations.
During the meeting, Kawai told Yonekura that the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo conveyed the Noda administration's plan to make the Senkaku Islands state property to China just before the prime minister announced the decision. Kawai said the information was relayed in a meeting to section chief level at China's foreign ministry.
In response, Yonekura asked Kawai, "Didn't you convey the Chinese officials' reactions in the meeting to your superiors?"
Kawai did not answer.
One of the sources said, "Chinese officials presumably reacted angrily (to Noda's plan)."
Anti-Japan demonstrations in China targeted Japanese companies, their factories and outlets.
China also canceled a business mission, an annual event for the past 37 years, by the Japan-China Economic Association at the last minute. It was to have left for China on Sept. 25.
In light of the impact the territorial row is having, an official of a company in China remarked, "The person to whom Yonekura should say, 'I want you to restore calm to bilateral relations as early as possible because the impact on the economy is serious' is not high-ranking officials of the Chinese government but the Japanese prime minister."
Yonekura also met with former Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan, who now serves as chairman of the China-Japan Friendship Association. Afterward, Yonekura sounded confident, telling reporters, "I now see a way forward to solve the problem."
In Japan, meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada was clearly put out Sept. 28 by Yonekura's criticism of the government.
"I was rather surprised," he said. "A person in a high position should not talk imprudently about an issue that requires hard negotiations between countries," Okada said.
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