A look at China-Japan relations through the years

TOKYO • Japan and China will celebrate 40 years of a bilateral peace and friendship treaty this month, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set to make a landmark visit to Beijing. The Straits Times charts the highs and lows of the Asian neighbours.

SEPTEMBER 1972: China and Japan normalise ties, and issue a joint communique to mark the end of war signed by Prime Minister Kakuei Tana-ka and Premier Zhou Enlai.

Mr Tanaka stops short of apologising for the war, saying it was "regrettable" that bilateral ties went through "unfortunate experiences".

OCTOBER 1978: Japan-China Treaty of Peace and Friendship takes effect as Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping visits Japan.

OCTOBER 1992: Emperor Akihito visits Beijing, where he acknowledges "deep sadness" for "an unfortunate period in which my country inflicted great suffering on the people of China" from 1931 to 1945.

AUGUST 1995: Japan Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama says in a landmark statement to mark 50 years since Japan's surrender: "I regard, in a spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology."

NOVEMBER 1998: State visit by Chinese President Jiang Zemin - the first visit to Japan by a Chinese head of state. Joint declaration confirms "annual visit by a leader of either country to the other" - but this would stop in 2001.

AUGUST 2001: Japan Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who took office in April, visits Yasukuni Shrine, which is controversial as it enshrines Class A war criminals among the 2.5 million soldiers there. He angers China with the annual ritual, which he observes until he steps down in 2006.

OCTOBER 2006: Mr Shinzo Abe, in his first term as Japan's Prime Minister, makes a fence-mending trip to Beijing, kickstarting a series of annual visits. This would stop in 2011.

MAY 2008: Chinese President Hu Jintao visits Japan, signs joint statement to advance relations based on "common strategic interests".

2010: China overtakes Japan as the world's second-largest economy.

SEPTEMBER 2010: China-Japan ties deteriorate after a Chinese fishing trawler collides with two Japanese Coast Guard boats near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islets. The Chinese fishing boat captain is arrested.

DECEMBER 2011: Japanese PM Yoshihiko Noda visits Beijing. No Japanese premier has since visited China outside a multilateral gathering.

SEPTEMBER 2012: Sino-Japan ties plunge to an all-time low after Tokyo effectively nationalises the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets. Large-scale anti-Japanese demonstrations break out across China, with the Chinese calling for a boycott of Japanese products and setting ablaze factories and offices of Japanese companies in China.

Since then, both militaries have dispatched jets over the disputed islands, causing each other's air force to scramble fighter jets and leading to a number of close shaves.

JANUARY 2018: China for the first time sends a stealth nuclear attack submarine into waters near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets.

MAY 2018: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang makes official visit to Japan, the first Premier to do so in eight years.

JUNE 2018: China and Japan set up military hotline to stave off accidental conflict.

Walter Sim

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2018, with the headline A look at China-Japan relations through the years. Subscribe