Friday, February 25, 2005

Japan's Ties to China: Strong Trade, Shaky Politics

By JAMES BROOKE, The New York Times, February 22, 2005

TOKYO, Feb. 21 - Just as China's state news agency was berating Japan for its "wild behavior" in joining the United States to express their "common strategic objectives" in Taiwan, the news came Monday that Japanese trade with China jumped 27 percent last year, hitting a record high of $168 billion.

It was only the latest example of a troubling dynamic in the countries' relations: white hot economics and deep freeze politics.

The joint United States-Japan declaration on Taiwan, buried last week in a long, seemingly bland statement of cooperative security objectives, left many Chinese analysts outraged. "Japan colonized Taiwan for half a century," one Chinese expert based here said Monday, hardly containing his anger. "When Japan talks about Taiwan, we think they have no right to talk." He asked to remain unidentified because he did not want to criticize Japan publicly.

But others say Japan's mention of Taiwan in its list of goals for a safer Asia was part of a larger effort to stand up to China's expanding power.

Japan's growing economic dependence on China would seem to point toward a greater deference from Tokyo. But political and military affairs have risen in importance in the region, and for Japan's government they may now be edging out economic concerns. As a result, many here say, it makes sense for Tokyo to bolster Taiwan, a convenient buffer state that absorbs the military hostility and expansive energy of its rival.-------------------

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