【明報專訊】THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT insists that Japan and China were not agreed that the Diaoyu Islands question be shelved in their talks on the renormalisation of Sino-Japanese relations. However, Mitsunaga Tabata, a Japanese journalist who covered the talks forty years ago and who has compared Japanese official records with the accounts given by a Chinese and a Japanese who were present at the talks, calls the Japanese government's assertion "an absolute lie".
Mitsunaga Tabata is one of the journalists who went to China to cover the talks between the Japanese prime minister and his Chinese counterpart. According to him, on 27 September 1972, Kakuei Tanaka raised the Diaoyu Islands question during the talks. About this there are only three lines in the official record the Japanese government has released of the meeting between Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and Premier Zhou Enlai:
Tanaka: "How do you look at the Diaoyu Islands? Many have mentioned this matter to me."
Zhou: "We don't want to talk about the Diaoyu Islands question this time. It is not an opportune moment for doing so. It has become a problem because oil has been found there. But for that, neither Taiwan nor the US would have made an issue of it."
Relying on this document, Tokyo contends that, as Tanaka raised the matter and Zhou declined to discuss it, it is clear that China has relinquished its sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and, for this reason, there is no territorial dispute between China and Japan and they have never agreed that the question should be shelved.
Mitsunaga Tabata has bluntly slammed the Japanese government for lying. Japan has falsified the history of its aggression against China. Never since the end of World War II has it been contrite for its crime of invading China. Against this backdrop, it appears "normal" for it to have denied the two countries once agreed to shelve the question and to have sought to seize the islands. Unwilling to face history and know it for what it is, Japan cannot possibly be a good neighbour. It is a formidable neighbour that has never ceased to have designs against our country. Tokyo has now deleted some Tanaka-Zhou dialogue and plausibly advanced the ostrichlike argument that the two countries have never agreed to shelve the dispute. That is sheer deception and in no way bears scrutiny.
It is common knowledge that China has always sought to shelve the Diaoyu Islands question. However, since China and Japan renormalised their diplomatic relations in 1972, Tokyo has kept pressuring Beijing about this matter. For example, it raised the issue during the talks on the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People's Republic of China (which was signed in 1978). Asked about the ownership of the Diaoyu Islands at a press conference in Japan, Deng Xiaoping said clearly, "In renormalising their diplomatic relations, the two countries agreed not to discuss the question, and they have agreed not to touch it in the talks on the Treaty of Peace and Friendship." He also said, "It doesn't matter to shelve the question for a while. It causes no problems to wait ten years. We people of this generation lack wisdom. We can't come to a consensus about the matter. The next generation will certainly be cleverer than we are, and there is no doubt that they will arrive at what is acceptable to both sides." He made China's position abundantly clear. If Japan had wanted to discuss the issue instead of having it shelved, it should have openly declared its intention to China. However, Tokyo has kept doing what is against the agreement about the islands, though it has made no representations to Beijing. Such behaviour is wholly ignominious.
China has made stern and forceful responses to the Noda administration's purchase (nationalisation) of the Diaoyu Islands (which the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands). Yoshihiko Noda has admitted his misjudgement and said he will consider sending a special envoy to Beijing to mend fences. On the face of it, China's position is such that the Japanese cannot but look squarely at its claim to sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands. They are prepared to compare notes. In our view, it is necessary for Beijing to compel Tokyo to negotiate with it about the islands. Japan's de facto control over them will not weaken until such negotiations begin.