Japan, China quietly mark 35th anniversary of friendship treaty

Japan and China on Monday quietly marked the 35th anniversary of signing the treaty of peace and friendship between the two countries, with no official events being held in Beijing, at a time of continued frosty relations stemming from a dispute over a group of islands.

A two-day forum of about 100 experts from the two countries was scheduled to take place in Beijing on the occasion of the anniversary, but the event has been postponed upon a request from the Chinese side.

The forum has been co-organized by Japan's nonprofit think tank Genron NPO and the official China Daily every year since 2005.

While China's major media outlets did not report the anniversary on Monday, the country's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the two countries should properly deal with the current difficulties "in a spirit of taking history as a mirror and looking ahead to the future."

The think tank and the newspaper released the results of this year's opinion survey last week, in which they said that more than 90 percent of Japanese and Chinese people have negative feelings toward each other's country, the worst since similar polls began in 2005.

One of the major reasons cited in the survey was the dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Bilateral relations have sunk to their lowest point in years since the Japanese government's purchase in September last year of a significant portion of the uninhabited islands from a Japanese private owner.

The islands are claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu. Shortly after the purchase, anti-Japan violent protests broke out in many parts of China.

Chinese authorities are said to be nervous about any sign of unrest in the run-up to the first anniversary on Sept. 11 of Japan's placing the islands under state control.

The friendship treaty was signed in 1978, six years after the two countries normalized diplomatic ties.

The accord stipulates that the two countries will develop bilateral relations based on the principles of "mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful co-existence."

It also says that the two countries "in their mutual relations (shall) settle all disputes by peaceful means and shall refrain from the use or threat of force."

On Monday, a cross-party delegation of relatively young Japanese lawmakers held talks with Yang Yanyi, assistant minister of the Chinese Communist Party's International Department, and other officials in Beijing.

The nine-member delegation, headed by Kiyohiko Toyama of the New Komeito party, said it agreed on the need to improve bilateral ties with the Chinese officials, but their discussions on the islands ran in parallel.

The Chinese officials insisted that it would be difficult to overcome the current difficult political situation unless Japan admits the existence of "a territorial dispute" over the islands, according to Toyama.

Yang, a former director general of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Asian Affairs, told the delegation that Japan is not taking "proper action," although it has been repeatedly saying that holding dialogue with Beijing is important, Toyama quoted her as saying at a news conference.