Some in LDP against Xi as state guest

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - Members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are divided over the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Japan as a state guest this spring.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Japan as a state guest this spring, but members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are divided over that designation. Those opposing the label bring up issues such as Chinese government vessels entering Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands of Okinawa Prefecture and problems with human rights in China. 

 While giving consideration to these views, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is struggling to balance those supporting and opposing Xi’s planned state visit to Japan.

 During interpellations on Wednesday by representatives from each party in the House of Representatives over the policy speech delivered by the prime minister, LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai said emphatically regarding Xi’s state visit, “Positioning it as a historically meaningful visit to Japan, we must make it successful by all means.”

 In addition to Nikai, other LDP heavyweights also support treating Xi as a state guest. LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida said: “It’s important to have control over the relations with China. One part of that is the visit to Japan as a state guest.”

 On the other hand, a conservative LDP lawmakers’ group concerned about Japan’s dignity and national interests submitted to the government on Tuesday its statement saying that Xi’s state visit would be welcomed if, first, several problems, including Chinese government vessels entering Japan’s territorial waters, are solved and serious human rights suppression in China is improved. The statement expressed a firm opposition to his visit as a state guest.

 A conservative member of the group said that giving Xi the highest-level treatment as a state guest without improvement in these problems would be sending the “wrong message at home and abroad.”

 Nikai expressed his unease over such opposition, saying to reporters on Wednesday, “There are people in every country who discuss such trivial things in various ways.”

 Both sides’ views on Xi’s state visit are causing Abe to have to take great care. Abe positively responded to Nikai’s interpellation in the lower house, saying: “Japan and China hold a large responsibility for regional and world peace. I’d like to take Xi’s visit to Japan as a state guest as an opportunity for Japan to show its intention at home and abroad to properly fulfill that responsibility.”

 However, after Yuichiro Tamaki, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party for the People, who opposes Xi’s visit to Japan as a state guest, questioned the prime minister’s stance, Abe stressed: “There are various pending issues in relations with China. We will strongly assert what we should assert from our side and ask China for positive responses.”

 In the policy speech on Monday, Abe did not mention Xi’s visit to Japan as a state guest, instead speaking on Taiwan in relation to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. It is rare that a Japanese prime minister mentions Taiwan in a policy speech. Some LDP lawmakers applauded Abe when he mentioned Taiwan in the lower house.

 On Monday night, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, welcoming Abe’s mention of Taiwan, wrote on her Twitter account in Japanese that she was really happy as the word “Taiwan” was given hearty applause in the Diet.

 Concerning Abe’s speech, a young LDP lawmaker said, “The prime minister is applying pressure on China to ask the country to deal with the pending issues.”

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