By Li Hongmei, Special to Sina English
A member of Japan’s coalition government arrived in Beijing on Tuesday with a letter for General Secretary Xi Jinping, allegedly from the hawkish Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to try to help calm an escalating dispute between the two countries over contested islands in the East China Sea.
Amid the diplomatic chill sent by the unsubdued island row, the visiting Japanese politician — Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of the New Komeito Party, which is considered less hawkish than the governing Liberal Democratic Party — might not come at an opportune moment, and could hardly harvest what he is seeking after—a talk with Chinese top leaders like Xi Jinping.
Coincidentally, South Korea’s President-elect Park Geun-hye sent her special envoy to Beijing, who was arranged a meeting yesterday with Secretary Xi, only hours after Beijing supported a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the rocket launch in December by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Mr. Yamaguchi’s visit, however, comes amid a drumbeat of heated commentary sweeping the Chinese media about the need for China’s military to prepare for war, and criticism of the rightwing Abe for trying to form alliances with China’s neighbors in Southeast Asia to contain China.
Meanwhile, the feud over the islands reached a dangerous new level nearly two weeks ago, when both Japan and China scrambled jet fighters over the East China Sea.
In a speech in Hong Kong on Wednesday, a former Chinese diplomat, Ruan Zongze, said China wanted a peaceful resolution of border issues.
“We are absolutely committed to peaceful resolution, peaceful dialogue,” said Dr. Ruan, a vice president at the China Institute of International Studies, a research group in Beijing that is affiliated with the Foreign Ministry.
Dr. Ruan said the Chinese military remained under the control of the Communist Party. “Even if the military wants to be more aggressive, the party will push the brake,” he said in an interview before his speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong.
While Japan's dispute with China over the Diaoyu islands has been notable for a number of reasons, mostly negative, one of the few positive elements has been the refusal of either side to send in the military.
That may have changed with the recent deployment of Japanese fighter aircraft to respond to a Chinese Y-8 maritime patrol aircraft heading toward the islands, but so far, at least, the confrontations have been limited to coast guard and other maritime paramilitary organizations.
But, whether the crisis would spill over and enshroud the whole scenario is still in the dark, partly, depending on whether the Abe administration could curb the orgies of rightwing mentality and adventures in Japan and Abe wield some statesmanship himself minding the whole and looking to the future.