Welcome to Tokyo, Mr. Wen!

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A friend of mine, who like me has lived a long time in both Japan and China, says that if you made a movie about the two countries it would have to be called “Natural Born Enemies.” I tend to share that glum view. Forget the U.S. v North Korea. Forget China v Taiwan. The most fraught, perilous relationship in east Asia is Japan v China. China PM Wen Jiabao heads for Tokyo next week, trying to build on the visit to Beijing by his counterpart in Japan, Shinzo Abe, last October. Wen in an interview with Japanese reporters yesterday called on Abe to make a clean break with his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, and not pay his respects at Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan honors its war dead, including class A war criminals from the World War II. (Abe has yet to visit Yasukuni but has been non committal as to whether he’ll go or not.)
To make Wen feel all warm and fuzzy toward Japan in advance of his visit, the policy chief of the LDP, Japan’s ruling party, compared China to a “thief” who breaks into a home and “takes things away.” The point of the comparison: the hotly disputed gas fields in the east China sea, which both countries lay claim to.
Here’s a full Bloomberg story about Shoichi Nakagawa’s remarks to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun. Welcome to Tokyo, Mr. Wen!

China Is Called a `Thief’ by Japan LDP Policy Chief, Asahi Says
> 2007-04-05 03:40 (New York)
By Sachiko Sakamaki
> April 5 (Bloomberg) — Shoichi Nakagawa, the policy chief of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said China is acting like a “thief” in developing gas fields in a disputed area in the East China Sea, the Asahi newspaper reported today.
“When a thief breaks into a home where its members remain quiet he’ll take things away,” Nakagawa was quoted by the Asahi as saying, referring to what he said was Japan’s acquiescence on the issue of the gas fields.
Nakagawa made his comments about a week before Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits Japan as part of an attempt to mend ties that have soured in recent years. He is the first senior Chinese leader to visit since October 2000.
Wen and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will discuss the disputed gas fields when the former visits Japan from April 11-13. Officials from the two countries failed to make progress on the dispute in talks on March 29 in Tokyo.