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Remarks by Assistant Foreign Minister Le Yucheng At Symposium Marking the 40th Anniversary of The Normalization of Relations Between China and Japan


St. Regis Hotel, 28 September 2012

President Yang Wenchang,
Distinguished Senior Diplomats,
Experts and Scholars,
Dear Friends,

Good afternoon!

I wish to thank the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs and the China Institute of International Studies for inviting me to this symposium.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the normalization of relations between China and Japan. Forty years ago, in a display of extraordinary vision and political courage, the Chinese and Japanese leaders at the time made the far-sighted decision to normalize the relations between the two countries and terminate "the abnormal state of affairs that has hitherto existed between Japan and the People's Republic of China", thus opening a new chapter in the history of China-Japan relations. The 40th anniversary should have been an occasion of joy and jubilation. However, the illegal act of the Japanese government to "purchase" Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands not long ago in total disregard of China's repeated stern representations has not only grossly violated China's territorial sovereignty and undermined the foundation of China-Japan friendship, causing a severe retrogression in China-Japan relations, but also deprived the anniversary celebration of its necessary atmosphere. What should have been a season of happiness has turned into a period of troubles. So much so that the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the China-Japan Friendship Association have been compelled to announce the postponement of the commemorative activities for the 40th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan relations.

Today, at the symposium jointly organized by the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs and the China Institute of International Studies, we are to take a hard look at both the experience and lessons of China-Japan relations in the past 40 years and explore how we can best safeguard the political foundation of this relationship and keep to its right orientation. Today's symposium is both timely and pertinent given the severe challenge facing China-Japan relations right now. Some present here today are participants in or witnesses to the normalization process and the signing of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship, and others are senior experts in Japanese studies and regional issues, all well-versed in China-Japan relations. I look forward to hearing your views. Since I have also been thinking about China-Japan relations more recently, let me take this opportunity to share with you some of my observations.

The normalization of relations between China and Japan was a major event of historic impact. It laid down the political foundation for China-Japan friendship, defined the orientation of growing bilateral ties and ushered in a new era in East Asian history. Over the past 40 years, the two countries have issued four political documents, steadily enriching the principles and spirits upon which the relations are based. Bilateral cooperation across the board has made substantial progress. Two-way trade has topped US$340 billion, up by over 340 times. China has become Japan's largest trading partner and Japan, China's fourth largest. Personnel exchanges have swelled from merely 10,000 a year to over five million people-visits now. Twinning of sister provinces and cities of the two countries has grown from zero to 250 pairs now. A look at the 2,000-odd-year history of China-Japan relations reveals that the past 40 years stood out as the period of the fastest growth and biggest changes and the period that delivered more benefit than ever before to both peoples and other Asian countries.

Much can be learnt from the extraordinary journey China-Japan relations have traversed in the past 40 years. One is of paramount importance. Namely, we must abide by the key principles and consensus that the two sides reached by profoundly summarizing the experience and lessons in the relations. China-Japan relations will grow only when these principles and consensus are strictly abided by. Should they be violated, the relations will encounter frictions, fluctuations or even setbacks. The current difficulties in China-Japan relations are the result of Japan's violation and sabotage of the understanding and consensus reached by the older generation of Chinese and Japanese leaders on "leaving the issue of Diaoyu Dao to be resolved later" and of Japan's calculation to change the status quo unilaterally. It is beyond any doubt that if the two sides had not acted in the above spirit on the issue of Diaoyu Dao, China-Japan relations would not have enjoyed relative stability in the past 40 years, not to mention making such big strides. The important consensus reached by the older generation of leaders of the two countries, therefore, is the essential guarantee for China and Japan to grow their relations steadily in the past 40 years by removing one obstacle after another.

It must be pointed out that the current tension over Diaoyu Dao was provoked single-handedly by the Japanese side. Since the beginning of this year, Japan has gone out of its way to make repeated provocations against China on the issue of Diaoyu Dao, such as naming some of Diaoyu Dao's affiliated islands, landing on its main island, purchasing the islands, holding "inspection" tours around the islands, organizing a "survey", staging a so-called "ceremony to mourn the wardead" and putting up an "angling" gathering in the waters of Diaoyu Dao, etc. etc. Japan has indeed racked its brains in this regard and stopped at nothing to achieve its aims. Finally the Japanese government came out from hiding to execute the so-called "purchase". Its goal is to strengthen Japan's "actual control" of Diaoyu Dao which will lead ultimately to its complete occupation. What the Japanese government has done constitutes an outright challenge to the outcomes of the victorious World Anti-Fascist War and the post-war international order and encapsulates Japan's attempts in recent years to turn back the wheels of history. Japan's actions have seriously undermined the political foundation of China-Japan relations and are bringing both China-Japan relations and the entire region down to an extremely dangerous direction. Given lessons from the past, people cannot but follow Japan's strategic movement with concern and cannot but be watchful of its strategic intentions.

The relations between China and Japan, the world's second and third largest economies with important global influence, bear directly on peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the world as a whole. To keep such a relationship on track takes wisdom, courage, sound judgement and far-sightedness, and calls for a capacity to see the large picture, think long-term and strategically and have a strong sense of responsibility. Here, I wish to make a three-point observation to the Japanese side, bearing in mind the current situation between the two countries.

The first point, we need to ensure that good faith will prevail in bilateral relations. This is the very precondition for China-Japan relations to get out of the current predicament and move forward. "I do not know what use a man can be put to, whose words are untruthful." Honesty and credibility are as important to a nation as to an individual. The Diaoyu Dao Islands belonging to China is an ironclad fact. Yet Japan has brazenly violated the understanding and consensus reached between the older generation of Chinese and Japanese leaders on leaving the Diaoyu Dao dispute to be resolved later and flatly denied the existence of territorial disputes between China and Japan over the islands. What Japan is doing, as a matter of fact, amounts to shaking China-Japan relations to their foundation, which is an out and out perfidy. The responsibility for escalating tensions over the issue of Diaoyu Dao lies entirely with Japan. So does the responsibility for the standstill in China-Japan relations. The Japanese side must stop immediately its lurching down the erroneous path, look squarely at the reality, correct its mistakes and take concrete steps to return the Diaoyu Dao Islands and their adjacent waters to calm and bring China-Japan relations to their normal track.

The second point, we need to remove disturbances to peace and friendship. China and Japan are close neighbours separated only by a strip of water. Since none of us can move to another planet, the two peoples must live together and amicably from generation to generation. The Japanese government must take a serious look at the modern history in which Japan preyed on its Asian neighbours, and recognize that China and Japan stand to gain together in peace and stand to lose together in conflicts, with peaceful coexistence being the only right option for both. For China and Japan to enjoy lasting peace and friendship, it is vital for Japan to pursue a path of peaceful development and prevent its right-wing forces from leading the country astray. For China and Japan to enjoy lasting peace and friendship, it is vital for some quarters in Japan to give up the Cold War mentality and come to terms with China's development instead of trying to contain it. It is vital for Japan not to make any more mistakes on the issue of Diaoyu Dao, for such mistakes can bring harm to itself while hurting others. China has committed itself to peaceful development. Yet no one should view this as a sign of weakness or as an opportunity to grab China's territory. No one should have the illusion that China will barter away its territories or sit idly by when its territorial sovereignty is violated. Keeping China-Japan relations peaceful and friendly is a common responsibility for both countries and not a matter involving only the Chinese side.

The third point, we need to remove obstacles to development and cooperation. Development and cooperation are the central task for China and Japan in the 21st century. The 21st century is a century of peace, development and cooperation. Friendship, win-win cooperation and common development serve the fundamental interests of the Chinese and Japanese peoples and those of other Asian countries. They also accord with the trend of the times. Whoever undermines the larger interest of China-Japan cooperation and blocks the path for closer China-Japan cooperation is to be condemned by history. There are still quite some public figures in Japan who live in the 21st century but with a mindset lingering in the 20th century, full of Cold War trappings. It is high time that they changed it. China has always attached importance to its relations with Japan and worked hard to promote China-Japan cooperation. Yet we will never put up with a Japan that talks about friendship and cooperation while doing harm to China at the same time.

Forty years after the normalization of their relations, China and Japan once again find themselves at a crossroads. The decision of the Japanese government to "purchase" Chinese islands, like an atomic bomb dropped on China, has aroused the anger of all Chinese and rallied the 1.3 billion people of China closely together. I want to make it as clear as possible to Japan: never expect China to accept the so-called "nationalization" of the Diaoyu Dao islands, never cherish the illusion for continued occupation of the islands, and never assume that the matter will simply disappear or be explained away by some kind of envoys. If Japan insists on having its own way and lurches down on its erroneous path, then the big ship of China-Japan relations may strike a rock and sink like the Titanic.

Lastly, we want to urge the Japanese government to respect history, act responsibly for China-Japan relations and for peace and stability in East Asia, size up the situation clearly, make a profound self-examination of its past mistakes, show political courage in making a resolute political decision to defuse the un-time bomb of the issue of Diaoyu Dao through credible measures, and call off all moves that jeopardize China's territorial sovereignty so as to bring China-Japan relations back to their correct track toward peace and friendship.

Thank you.

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