Japan-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting on the Occasion of the Third Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM III)

Japan-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting on the Occasion of the Third Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM III)

25 May 2001

On 24 May, Minister for Foreign Affairs Makiko Tanaka visited the People's Republic of China to attend the Third Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM III). Foreign Minister Tanaka met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Tang Jiaxuan from 15:50 to 17:00 (Japan time). The following is an outline of their meeting. (Attendants: Chinese side: Deputy Director-General of the Department of Asian Affairs Cheng Yonghua, Deputy Director-General of the Department of International Organizations and Conferences Liu Jieyi, Deputy Director-General of the Information Department Sun Yuxi, and others; Japanese side: Ambassador to China Koreshige Anami, Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Kunihiko Makita, and others.)

The meeting was held basically in a good atmosphere due to both ministers being old acquaintances. Although there are presently some issues between Japan and China, the meeting provided both sides with an opportunity to explain their respective positions, enabling them to deepen their mutual understanding.

1. Opening Remarks and Overview of Japan-China Relations

(1) The meeting began with reference to the days when relations between Japan and China were normalized and recollections of the former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka. Regarding the ASEM III Foreign Ministers' Meeting, Foreign Minister Tang expressed his gratitude for the assistance provided by Japan, and Foreign Minister Tanaka conveyed her appreciation of Foreign Minister Tang's efforts in chairing the meeting.

(2) Foreign Minister Tang elaborated the basic recognition that development of Japan-China relations would exert a considerable influence on the Asia Pacific region and the international community, noting that President Jiang Zemin's "important discourse" in May 2000 formed the basic direction of China's policies toward Japan and that the visit to Japan by Premier Zhu Rongji in October 2000 was a great success. Foreign Minister Tang further remarked that China hoped both countries would develop stable and sound relations in the long term based on their partnership of friendship and cooperation, noting that the efforts of not just one, but both sides would be required toward this end.

2. History Textbook Issue

(1) Foreign Minister Tanaka noted that this issue had been genuinely troubling her, asserting that just because the textbooks had been authorized, the historical perspectives and outlooks represented in the textbooks should not be identified as those of the Japanese Government. Foreign Minister Tanaka affirmed that the Japanese Government's basic recognition of history was reflected in the 1995 Statement by former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama and that there was no change in the present Cabinet's position regarding this issue. She explained that the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology had earnestly received China's request of eight revisions and was at present carefully examining them.

(2) Foreign Minister Tang alluded that this issue related to whether or not Japan would be able to confront its past history of aggression and under what historical outlook it would educate its younger generation. He further noted that he hoped Japan would clarify its historical position and take specific steps to redress the errors in the right-wing history textbook and remove its negative elements.

3. Taiwan Issue (Visit to Japan by Mr. Lee Teng-hui)

(1) Regarding Japan's relations with Taiwan, including the issue of the visit to Japan by Mr. Lee Teng-hui, Foreign Minister Tanaka affirmed that Japan's position stands as represented in the Japan-China Joint Communiqué of 1972 and that Japan would continue to maintain its exchanges of private and regional nature. She further stated that although there were some individual issues, such as Mr. Lee's visit to Japan, as regards to the Taiwan issue, the Government of Japan must make composed and prudent decisions, taking various factors into consideration with regard to Taiwan issues.

(2) Foreign Minister Tang affirmed that China's position regarding Mr. Lee's visit remained the same as heretofore stated and that Mr. Lee had himself said his recent visit to Japan represented an important event between Japan and Taiwan. He also stated that Mr. Lee was not merely an ordinary citizen but a person who currently instigates separatist activities and was responsible for creating the "two state theory". He further expressed the hope that Japanese side would recognize the importance and sensitivity of this issue and make efforts to prevent the recurrence of the issue.

4. Issue of Visit to Yasukuni Shrine

(1) Foreign Minister Tanaka noted that she had not visited Yasukuni Shrine as Director-General of the Science and Technology Agency and that she would not do so as a Minister of State. She explained that Prime Minister Koizumi had reiterated, with regard to his own feelings, that he would visit the shrine to offer his heartfelt prayers for the repose of the souls of those that had died, and intended neither to beautify nor justify the war.

(2) Foreign Minister Tang noted that this issue had surfaced on two previous occasions, once in the eighties and once in the nineties, stating that it had had an extremely negative effect on Japan's image. Citing the Chinese proverb, "to add frost to the snow," (Chinese: "Xue Shang Jia Shuang") meaning that matters would only be made worse, he observed that a visit in the Prime Minister capacity would almost certainly have a serious impact on overall Japan-China relations. Moreover, Foreign Minister Tang confirmed that he would like the Japanese side to consider the feelings of the victims, conform with the spirit of international harmony and honor its promises made thus far.

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