After being reelected as head of Japan's ruling Democratic Party Friday, Yoshihiko Noda is poised to fend off challenges to his prime ministership in the next general elections.
Amid all the election buzz, however, Noda must not lose sight of the need for an immediate China-policy overhaul to ease the tension his current policy has stoked up.
On Sept. 10, Tokyo officially decided to "purchase" China's Diaoyu Islands despite repeated protests from Beijing, immediately causing a ripple effect that drove relations between Beijing and Tokyo to near freezing point, ignited demonstrations across China and put cultural exchanges to a stop.
Noda, who's government has orchestrated the whole farce, claimed to have handled the issue "from broad viewpoints," but instead he demonstrated a lack of historical perspective, among other blunders.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Germany's largest daily, said in an article Wednesday that Japan's willful neglect of its wartime crimes was the reason behind its repeated territorial rows with neighbors.
Having never faced up to its past atrocities, Tokyo consequently has a hard time comprehending that, to the Chinese people, the Diaoyu Islands are not just a issue of sovereignty but also a symbol that invokes the traumatic memories of the Japanese invasion, it said.
Against this backdrop, any rash moves regarding the islands are bound to provoke a furious response from China, as was demonstrated in the past week.
Moreover, Noda needs to leave the United States out of his calculations, and snap out of the dream of inviting Washington to intervene on the basis of the Japan-U.S. security treaty.
In response to Japan's provocative moves, China has stepped up its presence in the islands' surrounding waters to show its clear-cut determination to safeguard sovereignty.
On the other hand, the Chinese foreign ministry said Thursday that China had always insisted that issues concerning the Diaoyu Islands should be solved through dialogue and negotiation.
As a former finance minister, Noda should realize the magnitude of the issue, which has the potential to devastate the hard-won healthy relationship between the world's second and third largest economies, and create a flash-point in Northeast Asia.
Therefore it would be a better choice for Noda to back down from nationalist impulses and sketch out a new strategy that serves to benefit both sides in a year that marks the 40th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan ties.
According to Japan's Kyodo news agency, Noda appeared on television Wednesday and floated the possibility of sending an envoy to Beijing to clear the air. Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba also voiced his intention to maintain communications with China.
However, the statements are yet to be backed by concrete efforts from Tokyo that truly help to set bilateral relations back on the normal track.
It is quite clear that it is in the interest of all that Noda should reset his ailing China policy and embrace a responsible and rational approach for the greater good.