Abe hopes to meet China, S. Korea heads to soothe ties
By Shigemi Sato, AFPTOKYO -- Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday he hoped to meet the Chinese and South Korean leaders soon to improve relations strained by separate territorial rows.
March 18, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
But his ruling party also pledged the same day to push for changes to Japan's pacifist constitution — a move likely to stir unease in both the countries, which were among victims of Tokyo's 20th-century militarism.
“I am in the same generation as the two new leaders,” Abe told an annual convention of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping, 59, and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, 61.
The 58-year-old Abe became prime minister in December for a second time when his conservative party secured a landslide election victory, while Tokyo was locked in disputes with Beijing and Seoul over island chains.
“For prosperity and stability in the region, it is necessary for the three of us to build mutual understanding,” Abe told the convention.
“I want to say that Japan's door is always open toward China,” said Abe, who was previously premier from 2006-2007.
But earlier in the day, the premier urged graduates of the National Defense Academy to guard the country against “provocations,” an apparent reference to the row with Beijing over sovereignty of a Tokyo-controlled island chain.
Chinese ships have routinely circled the Senkaku islands, which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus, since Tokyo nationalized some of them in September.
Abe, in his speech to graduates, emphasized that the security situation had changed since they started their course four years ago.
“Unlike four years ago ... provocations are continuing against our country's territorial land, sea and air,” he told the graduation ceremony.
“What is happening in the field where you will be is a harsh reality and a crisis that is there,” he added.
“I wish you to dedicate yourselves to noble duty in the field, to defend the people and the country.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech during a graduation ceremony at the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka, Kanagawa prefecture on Sunday, March 17.