Yasukuni Shrine

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ‘unwelcome’ in China after war shrine visit

Talks are ruled out as fears grow that the strained relations with China will only improve when Japan's prime minister is out of office

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 5:21pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 December, 2013, 9:15am

Beijing said yesterday that Japanese prime minster Shinzo Abe would be "unwelcome" in China because of his visit to a shrine honouring Japan's war dead, including war criminals.

The remarks suggest that the chances of any improvement in Sino-Japanese ties will be slim as long as Abe is in office, analysts said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said yesterday that leaders of the world's second- and third-largest economies would not have any political dialogue at the highest level.

Abe needs to admit his mistakes to the government and people of China

"Since assuming office, Abe has miscalculated on Sino-Japan ties, and made mistake after mistake, especially visiting the Yasukuni Shrine which houses class A war criminals. These people are fascists, the Nazis of Asia," Qin said. "Of course the Chinese people don't welcome such a Japanese leader, and Chinese leaders will not meet him. Abe has himself shut the door on talks with Chinese leaders."

Abe said that he hoped for talks with Beijing after visiting the shrine last week - the first pilgrimage to the Shinto-style war shrine by a sitting Japanese prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi's visit in 2006.

"Abe's hypocrisy in his claims of prioritising relations with China and hopes for dialogue with the Chinese leaders has been fully revealed," Qin said. "Now, Abe needs to admit his mistakes to the government and people of China, cut loose from the past and make a new start."

On civilian ties - as opposed to government ties - between the two countries, Qin said Abe's actions had created a "tremendous obstacle" to bilateral co-operation and would "eventually hurt Japan's own interests".

Analysts said Beijing's latest remarks suggested there would be no bilateral summit as long as Abe is in office.

Liu Jiangyong , deputy dean of Tsignhua University's Institute of Modern International Relations, said Abe had inflicted greater damage on Sino-Japanese ties than Koizumi.

"Abe's recent moves are all targeting China … and at the year end he visits Yasukuni to report his work," Liu said.

Da Zhigang, a Japanese affairs specialist at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Science, said Beijing has lost hope with Abe, and will wait for Abe's successor to improve Sino-Japanese relations. "Abe will not have the chance to visit China, and talks between him and Chinese leaders on the sidelines of international meetings are also not possible," Da said.

"But China is unlikely to resort to economic sanctions because this will hurt China's trade and trigger sentiment in China."

Zhang Baohui, a security specialist at Lingnan University, said there was almost no room for improvement in Sino-Japan relations under Abe.

"The Sino-Japan relationship is in a very difficult situation given the two nations are embroiled in bitter territorial disputes, and the matter is now seriously complicated by historical issues."

Liu said relations between China and Japan would continue to deteriorate under Abe's reign. While Abe's Liberal Democratic Party is due to have another round of elections in 2015, Abe faces tremendous pressure both internationally and domestically in his bid to be re-elected as the party's president.

"If the Japanese people are not happy with his foreign policy, and if the economy does not improve, if the stock market's bubble bursts, Abe could fail," Liu said.