Beijing opts for diplomacy in row over Shinzo Abe's visit to war shrine

Foreign minister calls counterparts in Russia, Germany and Vietnam to protest against Japanese leader's 'alarming' visit to war shrine

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 January, 2014, 2:34am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 9:15am

China is trying a new tack to counter Japanese nationalism while avoiding damage to its own economy.

Rather than allow mass demonstrations and attacks on businesses selling Japanese goods, Beijing has sought diplomatic support for its condemnation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit last week to a controversial war shrine.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi has telephoned his Russian, German and Vietnamese counterparts to relay China's alarm at Abe's visit to the Yasukuni shrine, which honours Japanese killed in military conflicts, including 14 "class A" war criminals from the second world war.

Lin Xiaoguang , an international relations specialist at the Central Party School, said: "The power of right-wing politicians in Japan is on the rise and Beijing realises that it is difficult to contain Abe by soliciting support from Japanese politicians who are friendly to China.

"So China is turning to overseas countries and stressing that Japan is trying to change the world order."

Yang Bojiang , the director of Japanese studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said: "Large protests and economic actions will affect China's interests and China does not want to pay the price for Abe's behaviour."

The best course was for China to express its anger through diplomatic means and to exercise restraint, Yang said.

Demonstrations swept mainland cities when the Japanese government announced last year it had bought from their private owner three of the disputed Diaoyu Islands - which Japan calls the Senkakus.

In his conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Wang said that China and Russia, as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, should "uphold international justice and the post- second-world-war international order". Wang said that Abe's visit to the shrine was "alarming". He also discussed "problems with Japan" in his phone conversations with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh, according to the foreign ministry in Beijing.

Steffen Seibert, spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that while he would not comment on Japanese domestic politics, Germany had tried to deal honestly with its second world war past.

"This is a conviction Germany takes to heart and which in my opinion applies to all states," Agence France-Presse quoted him as saying.

Professor Jia Xiudong , a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, said countries like Vietnam would be cautious about taking action against Japan, which pours aid and investment into Southeast Asia.

Wang's phone calls came after the foreign ministry said on Monday that Abe would not be welcomed by the Chinese people because of his visit to the shrine - a remark which indicates high-level talks between the two nations are very unlikely for the rest of Abe's term.

His Liberal Democratic Party will pick its next president in an election next year.

Video: Japan PM Abe visits Yasukuni war shrine