Japan lacks strategy in dealing with China

Oct 21, 2004 02:00 AM

When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told top Japanese business leaders during a speech in September that Japan is making problems for bilateral relations on the political front the friendly atmosphere in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing quickly turned chilly.
"Frankly speaking, there are several political problems between the two countries which China has not created," Wen said. "A few Japanese politicians do not see things from a broader view and are unable to deal with historical problems with responsibility."

Wen made the remarks to a visiting delegation of the Japan-China Economic Association. Hiroshi Okuda, honorary chairman of the association and chairman of the Japan Business Federation, was among the participants of the talks. Before his speech, Wen had walked over to the 100-member Japanese delegation and shook hands with Okuda amid smiles and applause.
Okuda later told that Wen was apparently referring to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to Tokyo's YasukuniShrine. China has repeatedly complained about the visits to the shrine, which honours Class-A World War II criminals along with other war dead.
"I will directly talk to Mr Koizumi at an early date," Okuda said.

Ties have also been strained recently on the economic. In June, China started natural gas development near the border of the exclusive economic zones of the two countries in the East China Sea. This sparked a tough response from Japan. Economic, Trade and Industry Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, who had visited the maritime area, met Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai in September to discuss the issue.
But Nakagawa was unhappy with the meeting, and called said the Chinese minister's response "extremely insincere."
"Resources (on the Japanese side) will be absorbed (by China)" as they are linked under the seabed and China is already developing them, Nakagawa warned.

The Japanese government said it will carry out its own research into the seabed to secure resources. But even if natural gas reserves are confirmed, that will not solve the problem. It is expensive to transport natural gas to consumers -- it has to be liquefied and carried by tankers or undersea oil pipelines are needed.
Considering the costs involved, "It is realistic to sell (gas) to China, which is closer (to the gas field) than Japan," said an executive of the Japan Petroleum Development Association. But no such blueprint has been drawn up by the Japanese side, association sources said.

China's strategy is clear. Resource procurement is the lifeline for its huge economic expansion. A Teikoku Oil executive said the Chinese government is taking the initiative by buying rights and interests to oil and gas at amazingly high prices from the Middle East and Russia.
"At least, I hope for joint development," said Masao Araki, an adviser to Uruma Resources Development.

When he was the company's president about 30 years ago, it applied for oil and gas development in the East China Sea, but the application has been ignored. This is because the government has no strategy, he said.
Shigeo Hiramatsu, a professor at Kyorin University, said, Japan is not acting quickly enough.
"The Japanese government is taking only stopgap measures on the issue. It lacks a national strategy for securing energy," he said.

Source: Kyodo News
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