Friction grows between Japan and China |

Friction grows between Japan and China

Associated Press

TOKYO – Despite a thriving economic partnership, political ties between Japan and China are at their lowest ebb in years. The two countries are locked in disputes over World War II history, natural gas exploration and now a bold incursion by a Chinese nuclear submarine. The troubles have blocked a meeting between the countries’ top leaders since 2001, complicated Northeast Asia’s scramble to meet its growing energy needs and threatened to limit the growth of Japan-China business ties.

The startling intrusion by a Chinese nuclear submarine last week into Japanese waters introduced a disturbing military aspect to the tensions between East Asia’s two leading powers, putting greater urgency on calls for a repair in relations. “We should hold talks because we have problems. We are making arrangements,” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Tuesday when asked whether he was trying to schedule a summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Santiago, Chile.

The turmoil is a marked contrast to flourishing business relations. Bilateral trade hit a record $130 billion in 2003, a 30.3 percent increase from the previous year, and officials expect another record to be set this year.