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China slams Manmohan’s Tokyo visit

world Updated: May 31, 2013 01:16 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Seldom in recent times has a bilateral visit by the Indian leadership to a third country generated so much open and opinionated interest in China.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Japan tour has sparked sharp resentment in the state media with Communist Party of China (CPC) mouthpieces accusing Tokyo of trying to influence New Delhi and 'encircle' China amid competing interests.

On Thursday, state-run Global Times newspaper, known for its nationalistic views, said, "With Singh on his four-day visit to Japan, both sides have discussed maritime security cooperation. A few days ago, when Shinzo Abe, Singh's counterpart, visited Myanmar, it was seen as Japan's attempt to complete a 'puzzle game' in order to 'encircle China.'"

The charged opinion piece hinted that Japan was a fading power and had to come to terms with a rising Beijing's strategic influence.

"It will take time for Japan to face the reality that the once only great power in East Asia has to give way to China, whose GDP and marine strength will surpass that of Japan. The process will be tougher for Japan, which will be sincerely convinced some day," the newspaper said.

The resentful reactions to India and Japan's emerging alignment comes from the fact that Beijing and Tokyo are caught in an ownership fight over a clutch of East China Sea islands; their past history of violence is also probably playing a part.

Curiously, China has consistently dismissed similar Indian apprehensions that Beijing was trying to encircle India in - what New Delhi perceives - as its backyard: huge swaths of the Indian Ocean near its sea borders.

For one, China and Sri Lanka inked deals on Tuesday that will see the two countries cooperating to secure maritime safety in the Indian Ocean region; the latest move that adds to the often quoted "string of pearls" theory that sees China building strategic ports suspiciously close to Indian land and maritime frontiers.

On Tuesday, the primary CPC mouthpiece, People's Daily, called Japan "petty burglars" for trying to inch closer to India.

The national broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), also kept a pointed focus on Singh's Japan visit, carrying news reports and panel discussions.

In one discussion, a Chinese academic said that China-Japan relations were currently far worse than that of New Delhi and Beijing, and spoke in glowing terms about how the Himalayan neighbours resolved the recent border squabble.