China rejects fence-mending meeting with Japan

China rejects fence-mending meeting with Japan

Says bilateral relations badly damaged over boat row

China rejects fence-mending meeting with Japan

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan. AFPBeijing had already suspended high-level exchanges and promised tough counter-measures after a Japanese court extended the detention of the skipper whose boat collided with two Japanese coastguard ships this month near disputed islands.

China has repeatedly demanded the captain’s release. The Foreign Ministry stepped up the warnings and added the public snub of Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

“This issue has already seriously damaged China-Japan relations. The key to avoiding a further deterioration in the situation lies in Japan immediately and unconditionally releasing the man,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

It would not be right, Jiang said, for Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to meet Japanese Prime Minister Kan in New York on the sidelines of a United Nations development summit.

“Given the current atmosphere, arranging a meeting clearly would be inappropriate,” she added.

The detention of the boat captain has become a symbol of the distrust that runs through Sino-Japan relations, drawing in Chinese bitterness over wartime occupation, Japanese anxieties about Chinese regional sway, and the adjustments brought as China rises past Japan in global GDP rankings.

Despite increasingly heated rhetoric, experts predicted the dispute would have little impact on trade ties.

China has been Japan’s biggest trading partner since 2009 and bilateral trade reached 12.6 trillion yen ($147 billion) in the January-June period, a jump of 34.5 per cent over the same time last year, according to Japanese statistics.

Tourism worries

But worries about a possible dip in the number of big-spending Chinese tourists to Japan in the wake of the dispute weighed on the share prices of department store operators such as Takashimaya.

With the dispute unresolved, it was always unlikely that Wen would meet Kan this week.
But China’s blunt, and uncharacteristic, confirmation of the snub underscored the rancour that threatens to sour diplomatic relations. But both governments, however, are expected to do what it takes to avoid an outright rift.

A top Japanese government spokesman called for both sides to refrain from inflaming nationalism in the row over the islands. Japan’s Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda also called for a solution that would leave business ties unaffected.

“What is most important is that government officials in Japan, China and other countries try not to fuel narrow-minded nationalism,” said Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku.

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