Yoichi Masuzoe, the newly elected governor of Tokyo, vowed to rebuild bridges with China fraught by bitter disputes as he heads one of the world’s biggest metropolitan.
The former welfare minister vowed to help mend Japan’s strained ties with its Asian neighbor through city-level diplomacy by offering a hand to Beijing in tackling the worsening air pollution shrouding the capital and demographic challenges from its one-child policy.
“The bilateral relationship with (China) is so bad, as you know. Foreign diplomacy is almost broken,” Masuzoe said in his first briefing with foreign media.
“I would like to improve it by helping with their environmental problems and also social welfare. I am not a foreign minister, nor prime minister. But at least, as the governor of Tokyo, I can do something,” he said.
Masuzoe added he wanted to visit Beijing “as soon as possible” to learn from China’s experience hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics. He hopes forging closer ties with Beijing would ameliorate the sense of animosity between the two Asian economies. Relations are already strained due to a bitter territorial row, further soured by resentment over perceptions that Japan’s analysis of its wartime aggression.
Until 2012, Tokyo had been governed for 13 years by Shintaro Ishihara, a hardline nationalist known for his anti-China views. Ishihara led a campaign to nationalize islands at the center of the territorial conflict.
Tokyo, one of world’s biggest cities, slipped to sixth place in the Economist’s ranking of most expensive cities in the world, toppled by fast-rising Singapore.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image of Masuzoe, during 2009 election campaign: The 2-Belo/Flickr