No Home Run: China-Japan Summit Punts Contentious Issues

No Home Run: China-Japan Summit Punts Contentious Issues

Imagery of weather and baseball dominated Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's visit to China at the end of 2007. Greeting Fukuda in Beijing, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao observed that, "Although it is a chilly winter day, we can feel the warmth from friendly China-Japan relations here." The Chinese had characterized Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's October 2006 visit as "ice-breaking," while terming Wen's April 2007 trip to Japan as "ice-thawing." The most publicized event of the summit occurred when Fukuda and Wen, dressed in baseball uniforms, tossed a ball back and forth in front of the cameras to symbolize the warming of Sino-Japanese relations.

Despite the warm mood, the actual results of the Dec. 27-30 summit lend themselves better to an American football analogy: The two sides decided to punt their most difficult issues until Chinese President Hu Jintao undertakes his planned visit to Japan later this year.

The Chinese hosts certainly gave Fukuda, who was on his first official visit to China since taking office in September, a warm welcome. Fukuda attended a state dinner with President Hu, an honor Beijing had not bestowed on another Japanese prime minister since Yasuhiro Nakasone's visit over two decades ago. The governments highlighted their mutual support for the two most important events that will occur in Asia this summer, the Olympic Games in Beijing and the annual summit meeting of the Group of Eight (G-8) countries in Toyakocho, Hokkaido, which will include a high-level Chinese delegation. The Chinese media repeatedly noted that Fukuda's visit coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Sino-Japanese Peace and Amity Treaty. Fukuda's father, former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, had signed this bilateral friendship and peace treaty in 1978.

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