Disputes over history seen as biggest hindrance to Japan-China ties
Dec 30, 2006, 6:24 GMT
Singapore - Disputes over history are the biggest contributing factor to friction between Japan and China, coming in ahead of economic rivalry and China's rise as an Asian power in a poll released Saturday.
More than 900 people in seven Asian countries were queried for The Straits Times-Asia News Network (ANN) poll on the state of relations between the two countries.
Disagreements over history were identified by 54 per cent of those polled as the major sticking point. Economic rivalry was picked by 18 per cent and China's rise as a regional power by 16 per cent.
While 45 per cent believe that overt confrontation between the countries is unlikely, they expect relations to remain fractious in 2007. Nearly half said ties will improve as a younger generation emerges.
Political analyst Hori Katsumata cited as positive signs the summit between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Hu Jintao in October and the recent meeting of scholars from both sides viewed to resolve differences over history.
'If one side changes its position, it would be easier for the Chinese to be more accommodating,' The Straits Times quoted research fellow Katsumata as saying.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni shrine, which memorializes Japanese soldiers from World War II including many convicted of war crimes, provoked anger in China which views the shrine as a symbol of Japanese militarism.
Critics say Japanese history textbooks gloss over the actions of Japan's troops and the war-era atrocities committed.
Japan was regarded as most responsible for the rift between the two countries by 48 per cent of the respondents. Seventeen per cent opted for China and 19 per cent the United States.
One-third said they feared the fallout from poor Sino-Japanese ties could result in companies avoiding Asia as a place to conduct business.
While resolution of the Yasukuni controversy would not remove tensions, analyst Lai Hongyi at the National University of Singapore said it would clear the decks for political leaders to tackle other problem areas.
Close to a third of those polled said the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could play a part in improving China- Japan ties.
ASEAN groups Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar (Burma).
It was suggested that the grouping could provide a neutral platform for dialogue between Japan and its East Asian neighbours, China and South Korea.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur