Tokyo Experts urge Abe to boost aid to Beijing

JAPANESE experts have called on Premier Shinzo Abe (安倍晋三) to step up aid to China.
They also urge him to encourage studies on sensitive history issues so that Japan will not be "isolated" in Aisa.
The group of 78 prominent academics, business leaders, lawmakers and journalists said yesterday that the new Premier should distance himself from hardliners who believe China’s rise is a threat.
"If Japan continues to regard any growing trend towards cooperation and (Asian) integration with suspicion, it must be prepared to find itself isolated from the rest of Asia," they wrote in an unofficial study presented to Mr. Abe.
"Japan is not so weak that it would be pulled in any direction a rising China might want. People harbouring such suspicions or fears do not have a high enough estimation of their own country," said the group, known as the Policy Council of the Japan Forum on INternational Relations.
On Oct. 8, Mr. Abe paid a groundbreaking visit to China, which both sides hailed as a fresh start after years of tension under Japan’s former premier Junichiro Koizumi(小泉纯一郎).
Mr. Koizumi infuriated Beijing by repeatedly visiting the Yasukuni shrine (靖国神社) linked to Japan’s miltarist past.
Japan, in turn, took a harder line after China blocked its bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (联合国安理会).
Mr. Koizumi’s government had decided to halt low-interest loans to China by 2008, when Beijing hosts the summer Olympics, which is seen to symbolise the country’s rapid growth.
The loans — which totalled 3.13 trillion yen (S$ 40 million) between 1979 and 2005 — have been the main form of Japanese assistance since the two countries normalised ties in 1972 and are widely seen as de facto war reparations.
But the policy paper said Japan should step up other forms of aid, namely grants from the Japanese embassy and consulates to support medical care, education and other development in poorer parts of China.
"Japan’s grassroot programme for China should be expanded, not just continued," it said.
The group, formed in 1987 to make studies and recommendations about Japan’s role in the global community, also called for more regular summits and other dialogues between Asia’s two largest economies.
And it hoped both countries would carry out pledges to jointly study history.

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