BEIJING, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Days before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe starts his first overseas tour on Wednesday, the newly elected Japanese leader ratcheted up rhetoric toward China that badly damaged the mutual trust between the two neighbors.
Abe said before his inauguration that Japan sees China as one of its most important diplomatic relationships and promised to pull their soured bilateral relations back on track.
Recent moves by the Abe government, however, not only broke the prime minister's word but rapidly heightened tensions with China over the Diaoyu Islands.
Abe publicly claimed Japan's sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands on Friday, saying the issue is "not negotiable." Just days earlier Japan was also reportedly scheming to fire "warning shots" when Chinese planes enter air space claimed by Japan.
Moreover, Japan's Cabinet approved a supplementary budget plan of 147 billion U.S. dollars that includes military spending for border defense.
Tokyo's irrational provocations would undoubtedly incur a tough response from Beijing, further damaging the environment of economic cooperation as well as regional stability.
Since the island-buying farce inflamed bilateral ties last year, Beijing has been trying to defuse tensions and welcomes any effort to improve their strained relations. That's because hostility and mistrust would hinder China's endeavor for a peaceful rise.
Meanwhile, calls for a pragmatic approach to the settlement of territorial spats, which also come from Japan, bring new hope for the neighbors to rebuild confidence.
At a meeting in Beijing on Monday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying and former Japanese Education Minister Kenji Kosaka agreed that the two countries should shift their focus back to development of the strategic relationship of mutual benefit.
The talks, expected to pave the way for a possible visit to China by Abe's special envoy Masahiko Komura, marked the first time a Japanese ruling party lawmaker met with a senior Chinese official since the launch of the Abe government.
Yohei Kono, a retired Japanese liberal politician and three-time foreign minister, criticized former premier Yoshihiko Noda for the island purchase, stressing that he is "not pessimistic" about how Chinese-Japanese relations might proceed under Abe's government.
To win China's trust, he said, one must not deal with Japan-China relations hastily because shortsighted projections and tough words would only give rise to a "negative spiral."
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the China-Japan normalization, Abe, who visited China in a 2006 "ice-breaking" trip during his first term, should review his China policy and again break the ice for the coldest winter of China-Japan ties in 40 years.