Kaifu Tells Chinese That Reform Key to Improving Relations
BEIJING (AP) _ Underlining the conciliatory tone of his visit, Japan’s prime minister on Sunday lauded China’s decision to sign a major arms control treaty and avoided mention of Beijing’s 1989 crackdown on democracy.
But Toshiki Kaifu - the first leader of an industrial nation to visit since China crushed its pro-democratic movement - also prodded the Communists gently in a speech by saying the path to better foreign ties lies with reform.
On Sunday, he placed a wreath at a monument to heroes of the revolution that brought the Communists to power in 1949. The monument was in Tiananmen Square, the symbolic heart of the nation and center of the massive protests of the democracy movement.
After China’s army crushed the movement, Japan joined Western democracies in imposing sanctions against China in protest.
But since last year, Japan has sought to end Beijing’s isolation and condemnation.
Kaifu praised China’s announcement Saturday that it would sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in his speech to about 700 Chinese at the Japan-China Youth Exchange Center.
China was the last holdout among the world’s five declared nuclear powers to say it would accept the treaty that limits transfer of nuclear materials. Japan, the only nation to suffer a nuclear attack, had pressed China to accede to the treaty.
″I salute this as an epochal step on China’s part towards the common goal of the international community to strengthen the regime of nuclear non- proliferation,″ Kaifu said.
Kaifu received the longest period of applause during the 45-minute speech when he said that Japan ″promises to extend further cooperation to China’s reform and openness policies.″
But the audience received Kaifu’s comments on human rights and other reforms with conspicuous silence.
″Upholding the fundamental human rights of its people and steadily undertaking political and economic reforms based on the principle of politics for the good of its citizens is a path that will in the end strengthen the nation’s ties with the rest of the world,″ Kaifu said.
China has come under harsh criticism over its human rights policies, including its treatment of political dissidents, religious persecution and coercive birth control policies. The country historically refused to discuss its record, saying to do so marked interference in its internal affairs.
But that policy began changing late last year as China sought to improve its international standing.
In assessing overall Chinese-Japanese relations, Kaifu alluded to ″a number of difficulties″ since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1972.
But he said recent ties proved ″that we have been successful in overcoming one challenge after another.″
Kaifu, who arrived Saturday and departs Tuesday for Mongolia, expressed Japan’s appreciation for China’s efforts to advance a peace plan for Cambodia and to reduce tensions on the divided Korean peninsula.
″If China plays a constructive role in international political relations ... the world is bound to gain an even stronger impression of China’s international importance,″ Kaifu said.
Kaifu also repeated Japanese regrets over the invasion of China before World War II and the military occupation that led to countless deaths at the hands of Japanese troops.
″The Japanese people are determined never again to make war,″ he said.
China and Japan were enemies for much of the 20th century.
Japan historically absorbed much from Chinese culture, including Buddhism, court rituals, architecture and the writing system.