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Japan, China quietly mark friendship pact 45th anniversary amid tensions

Japan and China on Saturday quietly marked the 45th anniversary of the signing of a bilateral treaty of peace and friendship, with no official celebratory events amid tensions over Tokyo’s plan to release treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea.

Bilateral relations have been strained over the planned start of Fukushima water discharge possibly from later this month as well as former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso’s recent visit to Taiwan and territorial and trade disputes.

The friendship treaty was signed in 1978, six years after the two countries normalized diplomatic ties, and took effect on Oct. 23 that year.

File photo taken on Aug. 12, 1978, shows Japanese Foreign Minister Sunao Sonoda (front L) and Chinese Foreign Minister Huang Hua exchanging documents at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Kyodo)

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Tuesday it is important for the two countries to “maintain forward-looking momentum and keep dialogue” so as to build constructive and stable bilateral relations.

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 coexistence.”

It also says the two countries “in their mutual relations (shall) settle all disputes by peaceful means and shall refrain from the use or threat of force” and that “neither of them should seek hegemony” in the Asia-Pacific or any other region.

Despite continued tensions, there have been signs that bilateral relations are improving. China said Thursday it has approved the resumption of Japan-bound group tours for its citizens, lifting restrictions introduced in January 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beijing has also notified Tokyo that it is positive about holding a summit between Premier Li Qiang and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of an international meeting next month, diplomatic sources said Wednesday.

A researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences stressed the importance of continuing people-to-people exchanges between the two Asian neighbors despite political challenges, saying it will “help dispel misunderstandings and prejudice.”

The Global Times, a tabloid affiliated with China’s ruling Communist Party, said “the key lies in Japan taking more practical actions to gain the trust of China.”

It noted that “the harm done by Japan’s conduct over the past two years to China-Japan relations, particularly the damage to mutual trust, is too severe.”

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