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Published: Monday December 16, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday December 16, 2013 MYT 7:55:10 AM

China keeps an eye on Abe as Japan PM seeks to rally support

BEIJING: The Chinese media kept a close eye on Tokyo as leaders from Asean countries gathered in Japan for the Japan-Asean Summit.

The three-day summit, which marks 40 years of ties between Japan and Asean, was seen as an opportunity for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to rally support against China.

In the latest episode of China-Japan feud, China has declared a new air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, which overlapped the territory claimed by South Korea and Japan.

As expected, Abe brought up the restriction on freedom of flight during the summit in an indirect reference to China’s air defence zone.

A Japanese official reportedly quoted him as telling the Asean leaders that “moves to unilaterally change the status quo, moves to put restrictions on the international aviation order, which is built on freedom of flight, are strong concerns”.

Under the aircraft identification rules which came into effect on Nov 23, all foreign aircraft intending to enter the zone have to report their flight plans to the Chinese authority and adhere to relevant instructions once they enter the zone.

The Chinese officials reserve the rights to adopt defensive emergency measures when aircraft fail to abide by the identification rules or obey the instructions.

State news agency Xinhua said Japan’s inclusion of air zone safety as a key security issue in the summit was a move to “plant a poisonous thorn”.

In a commentary, it said Abe’s frequent visits to nations in the Asean regional bloc in the past one year aimed at roping in the countries to rein in China.

It criticised Japan of using the East China Sea and South China Sea territorial issues to cause chaos and discord within Asean and to undermine the relationship between Asean and its partners.

Global Times was in the opinion that Japan would not succeed in its bid to get Asean to confront China.

“No matter how Tokyo creates waves, it will not gain a strategic advantage over China in South-East Asia.

“No countries will confront China for the sake of a declining Japan. Even the US, Japan’s patron, has to maintain relations with China while keeping its support to Japan,” it wrote.

During the summit, Japan has promised ¥2 trillion (RM62.7bil) of loans and grants to the region over five years. The pledge was interpreted as an attempt to increase its influence.

Tang Chunfeng, an expert on Japanese issues in the Research Institute of the Chinese Commerce Ministry, told the Chinese version of Global Times that Asean countries viewed Japan as the “God of Prosperity” who is willing to give them money.

“They are reluctant to offend Japan, but at the same time, they will not let China bear a grudge against them. They are only using Japan.”

Tsinghua University’s Institute of Modern International Relations deputy director Liu Yongjiang added that Asean would not take sides in this issue.

“Most Asean countries want the region to develop in a stable and peaceful environment, but Japan is constantly causing trouble.

“It will worry the Asean countries and even lead to dissatisfaction,” he said.

Commenting on Abe’s remarks to gather support from the Asean countries, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said China is aware of the relevant reports.

“We believe that countries should not target a third party or undermine the interests of the third party when developing ties with each other.

“They should instead make efforts to maintain regional peace and stability,” he said in a press conference on Friday, the transcript of which was available on the ministry’s website.

Tags / Keywords: Opinion, china check in

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