by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) May 23, 2012
China said Wednesday it has cancelled a high-level military trip to Japan, as the two neighbours bicker over a disputed island chain and a recent Uighur symposium in Tokyo that angered Beijing.
Guo Boxiong, vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission and China's highest ranking military officer, will not visit Japan due to "work commitments" at home, the defence ministry said in a statement.
According to the China Daily, the visit had been due to begin Thursday, with Guo scheduled to meet Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
The cancellation comes after China condemned Japan for allowing the World Uyghur Congress, which Beijing considers an exiled "anti-China" separatist grouping, to hold a meeting in Tokyo last week.
Uighurs are a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority who mainly live in western China's Xinjiang region and have long chafed under Beijing's rule.
In April, Beijing also angrily condemned remarks by Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who re-ignited a long-simmering maritime territorial dispute by vowing to purchase a group of uninhabited islands at the centre of the row.
Ishihara, an outspoken critic of Beijing who has made a career out of provocative nationalistic remarks, said he had approached the owner of the islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
In 2010, relations between China and Japan hit a low point after Japanese authorities arrested a Chinese captain for ramming his trawler against Japanese coastguard ships in the disputed area near the islands.
Despite their numerous political rows, China and Japan remain vigorous trading partners. Leaders of the two nations recently agreed to begin free trade negotiations that will also include South Korea.
Naoki Tanaka, Japan's defence minister, said Chinese authorities had told him Guo Boxiong's visit was postponed due to a work commitment, adding that he hoped to the trip could be rescheduled.
"I hope to have a high-level meeting as soon as possible, and I believe they understand the need for such a meeting," Tanaka told reporters at a regular news briefing in Tokyo.
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