Tension in Japan
The new U.S. ambassador to Japan is urging Tokyo and Beijing to ease tensions created by massive anti-Japanese demonstrations in China, where protesters have accused Japan of whitewashing its brutal conduct in China during World War II.
Japanese officials are upset by the Chinese government’s failure to prevent the demonstrations that turned violent when protesters threw stones and eggs at the Japanese Consulate in Shanghai over the weekend and broke windows at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing last week.
“We are concerned about the tension that has existed here recently,” Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer told reporters yesterday at his first press conference since arriving in Japan on April 8.
“The Chinese and Japanese have got to come to a conclusion as to how they handle this issue between themselves. Having said that, stability of Asia is important. Peace of Asia is important for the United States. We hope by the end of the day, China and Japan can work together.”
The demonstrations began in China after Japan published a new school textbook that Chinese critics assert glosses over Japanese atrocities during the occupation of China from 1931 to 1945.
The ambassador said he hoped the dispute will not affect the six-party talks over North Korea’s nuclear program. China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States have been trying to persuade the North to abandon any plans to build a nuclear weapon.
“We are concerned about the tension, but we hope that will not impact the six-party talks. I don’t think it will,” he said.
Mr. Schieffer expressed U.S. support for Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, a move that China opposes. Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States are the five permanent members, each with a veto over Security Council resolutions.
“Japan deserves to have a seat on the Security Council. Japan has to be on the Security Council for there to be meaningful reform,” the ambassador said.
Brazil, Germany and India also are seeking permanent seats, but Japan is the only candidate publicly endorsed by the United States.
Mr. Schieffer also appealed again for Japan to lift its ban on the import of U.S. beef and said Washington is sending a team of experts to Tokyo next week “to try to answer any other questions that the Japanese might have on scientific groups for continuing the ban.”
Japan was the biggest importer of U.S. beef before it imposed the ban in December 2003 after the United States discovered a case of mad cow disease.
“We hope that [Japanese] people can step back a little bit from the emotion of the issue to look at it on scientific grounds,” Mr. Schieffer said.
Ties with Vietnam
U.S.-Vietnamese trade relations are maturing dramatically, but Washington is still critical of human rights violations in the communist nation, according to U.S. Ambassador Michael W. Marine.
Mr. Marine told reporters in Hanoi that the former enemies have improved ties on a “whole wide range of fronts” in the 10 years since they established diplomatic relations.
He also said U.S. and Vietnamese officials are holding “discussions about a senior-level visit by the Vietnamese side to the United States this year.” News reports have speculated that visitor would be Prime Minister Phan Van Khai.
“My overall assessment of the relationship is one that is strong and getting stronger,” Mr. Marine said.
He predicted that 2005 will be a “very good year for U.S. exports to Vietnam.” Last year U.S. trade with Vietnam increased nearly 30 percent, while Vietnamese exports to the United States rose 16 percent, he said.
Mr. Marine said human rights remain Washington’s biggest concern. The State Department last year cited Vietnam for violating religious freedom.
“We’re going to have to spend time talking about these issues,” the ambassador said. “We need to do that in a constructive way, and we are doing it.”
Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@