Sunday, October 08, 2006

Unlikely Allies Band Together After Meetings

Japan Times

Millenia old rivals, Japan and China, have agreed on at least one issue: the North Korean missile tests “cannot be tolerated.” The hermit state’s long time—and possibly only rival—agreed with Japan that a nuclear armed North Korea would be a “great threat to East Asia and the international community.” The two leaders urged North Korea to rejoin the six-nation talks, after North Korea walked out over a year ago. Japan will continue to press North Korea without any conditions, and China will continue to press its ally to abandon the nuclear tests. Beijing has called on North Korea to avoid actions that “intensify relations.”

This most recent meeting was the first in over a year, and the first full visit in over five years. Beyond the North Korean agreement, the two sides agreed to cooperate on a wide array of concerns from economic matters to environmental matters. This would clearly be a dethawing of some of the hardening of relations between the previous Japanese leader and China. There were still disagreements on other issues, however, including the infamous “shrine” incident. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, refused to make any promises on whether he would or would not visit the Yasakuni Shrine (the Japanese shrine which honors the war dead—including those convicted of war crimes). He only promised to handle the issue “appropriately.” On a more positive note, however, the two nations agreed to embark upon a joint historical study to determine history of the Sino-Japanese relations.

The two leaders also promised that this would not be the only meeting between them. Both sides have expressed hope that friendly relations would continue, and in that spirit, the Chinese president will visit Japan. Furthermore, the leaders agreed to arrange another meeting at the annual APEC meetings in mid-November, and again at the East Asia Summit of ASEAN.

How will North Korea react to the pressure exerted by China—and conversely—if North Korea continues to pursue nuclear arms testing—how will China respond?

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