Japan and China must resolve their differences in the interest of regional stability, the U.S. ambassador to Tokyo said Wednesday, adding that Washington's role as a mediator was limited. U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer also said Japan should be allowed to decide for itself how to honor its war dead, siding with its ally on an issue that has been at the root of recent tensions between Japan and China, and backed moves by Tokyo toward changing its pacifist constitution.
"We hope Japan and China can resolve their differences because it's important for the whole region that everyone get along," Schieffer said at a news conference in Tokyo. "I don't know that we have a direct role to play," he said. "We aren't the last arbiter of every dispute in the world."
Despite growing trade between the economic powerhouses, diplomatic relations between China and Japan have sunk to their lowest in decades amid a series of territorial disputes and disagreements over interpretations of wartime history.
Relations plunged again last month when Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited a controversial Tokyo war shrine for the fifth time since taking office in 2001, prompting protests from China and South Korea and complicating diplomatic relations.
"I think Japan is trying to figure out how it's going to honor its war dead, and that's a decision for Japan," Schieffer said when asked about Koizumi's visit. "I'm not sure if it's terribly useful for foreigners to opine as to how that should be done."
The ambassador also said he welcomed Japan's moves toward making changes to its pacifist constitution, which could give its military a more active role in international security. "We'd love to do more with Japan, and we think that we can do more together to ensure the peace of the world," Schieffer said, adding the U.S.-Japan alliance had made great contributions to stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan's ruling party last week proposed a constitutional change that would create an official role for the Japanese armed forces to assist military allies and help with armed international peacekeeping, a troubling prospect for Asian neighbors wary of a revival of Japanese militarism in the region.
Also hobbling relations between regional rivals China and Japan is a dispute over undersea gas deposits, ownership of islets in the East China Sea and Japan's adoption of textbooks that critics say whitewash World War II atrocities, reports the AP. I.L.