China Voice: Japan's recognition of history must for peaceful Sino-Japan relations

BEIJING, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- Japan's diplomatic double-dealing has reached a new level since the start of this month.

On Aug. 2, in Sao Paulo of Brazil, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated his hope of meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in November at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Beijing.

Abe's statement was sandwiched between two political maneuvers. On Aug.1, the Japanese government "gave names" to 158 islets, including five affiliated to China's Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. On Aug. 5, a defense white paper highlighted what was claimed to be a lack of transparency from China on military matters.

The seemingly self-contradictory strategy highlights two realities: International and domestic pressure is mounting for better Japan-China ties; Abe and his rightist cronies are unlikely to change their stance.

Abe's gesture is pure expediency: his government faces multiple economic and diplomatic challenges with limited financial tools to pump up the economy.

Japan's GDP in the second quarter shrank 6.8 percent from a year earlier, the slowest pace since the Fukushima tsunami in March 2011, mainly due to a consumption tax increase in April.

To cut the budget deficit and restore fiscal health, Japan will very likely raise the consumption tax again, by a further 2 percent, next year. Support for Abe's cabinet was only about 45 percent in the latest poll, down from a 76 percent peak in April 2013.

In addition, the United States' withdrawal from the third round of quantitative easing and poor exports to emerging markets, especially to Russia due to sanctions, paint a gloomy economic picture for Japan. Taking all these factors into account, the Chinese market seems increasingly important.

Abe's globe-trotting diplomacy has done little to improve relations with his neighbors of China, South Korea and Russia. Will the difficulties of Abe's cabinet generate a policy shift toward China?

Informal contact was made between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida on Saturday. To China, Abe's view of history and provocation on the Diaoyu Islands are insurmountable obstacles, so the significance of the ministers' meeting should not be overestimated. It creates a mere possibility, not a certainty, of normal relations.

First, Japan must refrain from revising history. On the issue of confrontation, both China and Japan should be honest and resort to peaceful diplomatic means.

Although Abe and his ministers have made a gesture toward easing tension, the stance of Abe and Japan's political right-wing remain unchanged. Abe's nationalism and pressure from extremists will always add uncertainty to Sino-Japan relations.

To bring bilateral relations back onto a normal track, Japan's leaders should show their sincerity by correcting their erroneous view of history. Aug. 15, the 69th anniversary of Japan's unconditional surrender to the allies at the end of WWII, provides a good opportunity.