Envoy in sensitive Nanjing visit

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 December, 2010, 12:00am

The Japanese ambassador to China, Uichiro Niwa, arrived in Nanjing yesterday on a three-day visit, seen by Chinese and Japanese media as a sign of improving ties between the two countries.

Ties have been tense since a Chinese trawler and a Japanese patrol boat collided near the disputed Diaoyu Islands in September.

An information official from the Japanese embassy in Beijing said yesterday the visit would serve to promote the bilateral relationship and foster economic co-operation.

There had been media speculation that Niwa's trip might pave the way for a visit to the city some time later by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, but this could not be confirmed.

Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province, was China's capital city during the second world war. After it fell to the Japanese on December 13, 1937, their troops killed more than 300,000 people during the month-long Nanjing massacre.

Kyodo News said Niwa would not visit the Memorial Hall of the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre. However, it reported that the fact his visit had been approved by Beijing indicated better ties.

Last Saturday, the ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua , laid a wreath at the Hypocentre Cenotaph in Nagasaki and visited the atomic bomb museum.

A commentary in the Chinese newspaper Global Times last week described Niwa's trip as 'a sensitive visit at a sensitive time to a sensitive place'. It said his visit would 'show the Chinese people his goodwill, sincerity and courage'.

The Japanese embassy official said Niwa would meet Luo Zhijun , Jiangsu's party boss, during the visit to Nanjing. He would also visit Japanese companies, a foreign language school and a judo hall.

China National Radio reported that Niwa would visit a park today and meet people exercising there. Premier Wen Jiabao had included this type of excursion when he visited Tokyo.

Before being appointed ambassador, Niwa was an adviser to Japanese trading company Itochu Corp.