Japan has never in the past 1,500 years had a smooth relationship with China, Japanese deputy prime minister Taro Aso was quoted on Sunday as saying during a visit to India.
“India shares a land border with China, and Japan has had maritime contacts [with China], but for the past 1,500 years and more there has never been a history when our relations with China went extremely smoothly,” Aso said, according to the Nikkei and the Sankei Shimbun newspapers.
The comments on Saturday at a meeting with Indian business people in New Delhi came amid continuing tensions between Japan and China over disputed Tokyo-controlled islands in the East China Sea.
Aso, a former prime minister, made the comment in response to a suggestion that Japan and India should strengthen defence and maritime co-operation since both have territorial disputes with China, the Sankei said.
India and China are in dispute over an alleged incursion by Chinese troops deep inside Indian-claimed territory.
Aso also called for close defence co-operation between Japan, Australia, India, and the United States to ensure regional stability, according to major media.
Aso attracted media attention last month after he visited the controversial Yasukuni shrine, which honours 2.5 million war dead including war criminals from the second world war.
The Shinto shrine is seen as a symbol of Japan’s militarist past by Asian nations, particularly China and South Korea.