Shinzo Abe

Shinzo Abe seeks 'frank discussion' with China and South Korea

Japanese prime minister's call follows his controversial visit to shrine to war dead, but analysts say Beijing is unlikely to take up offer

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 January, 2014, 12:18pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 January, 2014, 8:10am

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for "frank" summit talks with China and South Korea after his visit last month to a shrine that honours war criminals was heavily criticised by both neighbours.

China and South Korea have accused Abe of showing a lack of remorse for Japan's second world war atrocities and the three nations are also embroiled in maritime territorial disputes.

"We should hold a summit meeting and have a frank discussion," Abe told Japanese broadcaster NHK yesterday.

Foreign minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday that the leaders should try to resolve their disputes and urged Beijing to agree to a summit between Abe and President Xi Jinping .

Abe is portraying an image that Japan is suffering … But China is unlikely to have talks

China and South Korea see the Yasukuni shrine, which honours 14 major second world war criminals, as a symbol of Japan's wartime aggression in Asia. The US and the EU also criticised Abe's visit.

Abe said a summit was all the more necessary because of the maritime territorial disputes, but added Tokyo would not make any concessions as a precursor to talks.

The shrine visit has prompted an international propaganda war between Beijing and Tokyo, with Chinese ambassadors overseas denouncing Tokyo as returning to militarism, while Tokyo paints China as a threat to regional security. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing has called Abe an "unwelcome" person, indicating a Xi-Abe summit is unlikely.

Zhou Yongsheng , a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, said Beijing was unlikely to respond to Abe's call for talks.

"Abe said he wants a dialogue because the international community is critical of the shrine visit," he said. "By calling for a dialogue, Abe is sending a signal that he has expressed his sincerity, but China and South Korea have rejected him."

Da Zhigang , an expert in Japanese affairs at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said Abe faces pressure from the international community, particularly from the US, to improve ties with its neighbours.

"Abe is portraying an image that Japan is suffering because of the strong reactions of China and South Korea," he said. "But China is unlikely to have talks with Abe and places the hope of improving Sino-Japanese ties with his successor."

Abe said his visit to the shrine was aimed at renouncing war and to pray for those who had lost their lives for Japan. "I want people to think about whether this is wrong. If they think about it, I think the misunderstanding will go away," he said.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse