TOKYO (dpa) – Chinese President Xi Jinping is unlikely to hold an official meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next week due to a territorial spat and the premier’s visit to a controversial war shrine, Japanese media reported Thursday.
As of Wednesday, China said Xi would not accept Abe’s call for formal talks on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing unless Japan admits there is a dispute over a group of islets in the East China Sea, and the premier promises not to make another visit to Yasukuni Shrine, the Kyodo News agency reported, citing diplomatic sources.
The war memorial is dedicated to 2.5 million war dead, including convicted war criminals from World War II. Japan has refused to acknowledge the existence of the island issue. The Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands are also claimed by China and Taiwan, where they are known as Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.
“It is not zero per cent, but it is extremely difficult,” an unnamed source was quoted by Kyodo as saying, referring to the possibility of the two leaders’ first official meeting during the regional meeting. “It is likely that Mr Xi will at least give Abe a handshake at the venue. But I believe he will avoid doing much more than that,” a Japanese government official told Kyodo.
Some Japanese ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, have held talks with Chinese officials since May for the two leaders to have an official meeting. Expectations for the meeting grew as former premier Yasuo Fukuda held talks with Xi last week, his second talk this year.
Critics say Abe, who has been criticised for glossing over Japan’s wartime history, gained popularity for harshly criticising China and the Koreas.
In December, Abe paid homage at Yasukuni, prompting a strong rebuke from Beijing and Seoul, as visits by political leaders to the shrine provoke anger in neighbouring Asian countries, who see the shrine as glorifying Japan’s wartime aggression.
Abe has not held a one-on-one meeting with Xi or with South Korean President Park Geun Hye since he took office in December 2012, as Japan’s relations with the two countries have been badly frayed over territorial spats and differing views of wartime history.
Abe has also renewed a call for a meeting with Park, but the South Korean president has not commented, Yonhap News agency reported. Japan’s relations with the two neighbouring countries are not likely to improve as long as Abe remains at the helm, said Minoru Morita, a Tokyo-based political analyst.