Japan's prime minister Yoshihiko Noda inspects a guard of honour during his ceremonial reception at the presidential palace in New Delhi December 28, 2011 (B Mathur/Courtesy Reuters).
Unlike many of us, Japan’s prime minister did not sit back and rest at year’s end. Rather, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda took to the road to visit two of Asia’s ascending powers. He spent Christmas in Beijing, after a planned visit for earlier in December was unexpectedly postponed by China’s leaders. Yet it was his trip to New Delhi on December 27–28 that energized Tokyo’s diplomatic agenda.
Noda’s willingness to rearrange his schedule to accommodate China’s desire to change the summit dates reflects an awareness of the delicacy of the moment for Beijing. The original date of the summit coincided with the deeply painful anniversary of World War II atrocities, the day Japanese Imperial Army troops captured the city of Nanjing. Postponing a planned summit meeting may be unprecedented, yet it leaves us wondering why Beijing’s leaders did not appreciate the domestic impact of hosting Japan’s leader when they picked the date. That they saw fit to ask Tokyo to reschedule reveals perhaps a bit more confusion in Beijing than is usual. But it also reveals the efforts Japanese and Chinese governments together are making to get this important bilateral relationship back on a sound footing. Read more »