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Japan PM criticises targeting of firms in China row

11 january 2013, 15:07
0
China was "wrong" to deliberately target Japanese business interests as part of a state campaign in a row over disputed territory, AFP reports according to the Japan's hawkish new prime minister Shinzo Abe.

"For political ends, harming Japanese companies and individuals in China that contribute to the Chinese economy and society -- I want to say it is wrong for a responsible nation state in the international community," Abe said.

"It not only harms bilateral relations, it has a significantly negative influence on China's economy and its society," he said at a press conference in his latest barb aimed at China.

Japan's ties with Beijing have remained tense for months as the two nations repeatedly face off in waters around the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands, which China claims as the Diaoyus.

Chinese government ships have been seen off the islands numerous times since Japan nationalised three of them in September, sometimes within the 12 nautical mile territorial zone.

Japan's purchase prompted violent rallies across China, with protesters attempting to storm Japanese diplomatic missions and vandalising Japanese stores, factories and shops selling Japanese-brand goods.

The riots and an unofficial Chinese consumer boycott of Japanese products cost firms more than $100 million, according to one Japanese government estimate.

Analysts noted the apparent unwillingness of Beijing to stop the violent demonstrators over the summer, as the Communist Party managed a delicate power transfer from President Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping.

Commentators noted that large-scale protests in China are usually quashed quickly if the government does not approve of them.

Beijing took umbrage at the island nationalisation, which came just days after Hu spoke informally with then-Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific economic summit in the Russian city of Vladivostok, analysts have said.

Since then, China has ramped up its activities around the archipelago, sending official vessels to waters around them on dozens of occasions.

A state-owned Chinese plane flew through airspace over the islands last month. Tokyo responded by scrambling fighter jets and said it was the first time Beijing had breached its airspace since at least 1958.

Observers say Beijing, which insists it is just patrolling its own territory, is looking to prove it can come and go around the islands as it pleases.

Abe came to power in December with pledges he would reverse what he said was Noda's pliant conduct in the face of a confident China.

"Regarding Senkaku, there is no change to my position to resolutely protect this water and territory. There is no room for negotiation on this," Abe told the press conference.

Abe's posture towards South Korea, another country with which Japan is involved in a territorial tussle over islands, has stood in marked contrast to his attitude on Beijing.

He dispatched a close aide to see South Korea's President-elect Park Geun-Hye and has received her envoy. A high level diplomatic meeting between Seoul and Tokyo was held on Thursday.

Abe said he planned to build a "relationship of trust" with Park, calling the neighbouring US allies "two nations sharing common values: liberty, democracy, basic human rights and rule of law".

He has also said he wants to strengthen ties with the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, countries that have enjoyed strong economic expansion and home to a growing number of middle-class consumers.

Abe is preparing to visit Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia next week, his first foreign trip since taking office.

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