TOKYO (AFP) ― China’s appointment of a former ambassador to Japan as its foreign minister is unlikely to soften Beijing’s position over islands at the centre of a dispute with Tokyo, Japanese media said on Sunday.
Wang Yi’s new job was approved on Saturday by the National People’s Congress, Beijing’s rubber-stamp parliament, which also promoted his predecessor Yang Jiechi to a member of the State Council, China’s cabinet.
“Although (Wang) is fluent in Japanese, well versed on Japan and has contacts with the Japanese political world, it is contrarily damaging for him to be seen at home as sympathetic to Japan,” the newspaper Sankei Shimbun said.
The conservative daily noted that the outgoing foreign minister had repeatedly talked tough against Japan, particularly over the Tokyo-administered Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, which Beijing also claims and calls the Diaoyus.
“Therefore, it is seen difficult to improve the Japan-China ties at an early date,” Sankei said.
The Jiji Press news agency quoted a Japanese diplomatic source as saying:
“Being well informed on Japan, he may rather take a harder line as he takes care not to be criticized for being weak-kneed.”
Wang, 59, served as ambassador to Japan from 2004 to 2007 and was also a diplomat in China’s embassy in Tokyo from 1989 to 1994. He has been in charge of Taiwan affairs on the State Council since 2008.
Japanese media also pointed out that when Wang was ambassador in Tokyo he helped mend the bilateral ties strained through visits by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to a Tokyo shrine honoring the Japanese war dead, including World War II leaders, amid protests from neighboring countries.
“It is apparent that the government of Xi Jinping is considering treating the Japan-China ties carefully,” the Asahi Shimbun said.
“His first task will be an attempt to normalize the Japan-China dialogue which has been mired in an awkward state amid a chain of mistrust and to pave the way for a Japan-China summit meeting,” the influential daily said.