Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of New Komeito, the Liberal Democratic Party's ruling coalition partner, visited China to hold talks with Communist Party of China leader Xi Jinping on Friday. This was Xi's first meeting with a senior Japanese politician since he assumed the top post of his party last autumn.
Yamaguchi handed Xi a personal letter from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. During the meeting, the Komeito leader said, "To break the deadlock, dialogue between politicians is essential."
Xi said he would seriously consider holding high-level talks, as such efforts are important to mend the strained bilateral ties. He also mentioned the need to develop an environment conducive to future bilateral summit talks.
China apparently seeks compromise from Japan over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, but that is unacceptable. We rather call on China for restraint.
Since Japan nationalized the Senkaku Islands in September, the intrusion of Chinese government ships into Japanese territorial waters has become commonplace, and there have also been reports of China's intrusion into Japanese airspace.
Beijing first should refrain from taking provocative action to prevent an unexpected contingency and improve the bilateral relationship.
Komeito's role as a bridge
Komeito played a key role through diplomatic efforts by its lawmakers when the two countries normalized diplomatic relations in 1972. It is understandable that the party again seeks to act as a bridge between the two governments amid friction.
The Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japan's territory. Thus, a territorial dispute does not exist over the islands. It is vital to stick to this stance taken by the Japanese government, but Yamaguchi's remarks caused concern.
Before his visit to China, Yamaguchi referred to the possibility of putting the sovereignty issue on hold, telling a Hong Kong TV broadcaster, "It's one sensible option to leave it to future wisdom."
He also proposed that both Japan and China restrain from flying Self-Defense Force jets or military planes over the islands.
Yamaguchi did not make such remarks at his meeting with Xi, but the comments should not be overlooked. For many years, China called for the two countries to set aside the issue. But Beijing established a maritime territory law in 1992 that stipulates the islands are part of China's territory and has since tried to force a change in the situation concerning the islands.
We consider it reasonable that Abe expressed his displeasure with Yamaguchi's statements, saying, "We'll decide whether SDF planes enter [the airspace over the islands]."
Remember national interests
Former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama plans to visit China soon. When he was in office, Murayama made a statement in which he expressed "deep remorse" to China for Japan's wartime occupation and other actions. Beijing appears to draw pro-China comments from Murayama.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who visited China earlier this month, called the Senkakus "disputed" islands. Because he conceded there is a territorial row between the two countries, Chinese major media reported it widely. We wonder if he is not aware he is being used by China.
Remarks that disregard national interests do the nation no good, only causing enormous harm to it.