by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Dec 16, 2012
China's official news agency urged Japan's new leaders Sunday not to "pick fights" with neighbours as election exit polls showed the hawkish Shinzo Abe on course to become the next prime minister.
Abe, who spent the campaign pledging to bolster Japan's defences and stand up to China over disputed islands, secured a decisive victory for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Xinhua news agency noted Abe's "landslide" victory but said the incoming leadership must find a way to manage disputes with neighbours.
China and Japan are locked in a fierce dispute over Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by both sides.
Japan now has a unique opportunity to reformulate its foreign policy and change its image in the neighbours' eyes, Xinhua's commentary said.
"An economically weak and politically angry Japan will not only hurt the country, but also hurt the region and the world at large," it added.
"Instead of pandering to domestic hawkish views and picking fights with its neighbours, the new Japanese leadership should take a more rational stand on foreign policy.
"Only when the world sees a cool-headed and cooperative Japan can the country ease into the vast network of trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific, the most promising region in the 21st century," Xinhua added.
The commentary came just days after Beijing's latest effort to bolster its claim to the islands, by submitting to the United Nations information on the outer limits of its continental shelf.
Abe on Sunday said there was no doubt over Japan's ownership of the islands at the centre of the dispute, saying Beijing was "challenging the fact that (the islands) are Japan's inherent territory" and that his objective was "to stop the challenge".
Abe added: "We don't intend to worsen relations between Japan and China."
The escalation in the dispute over the uninhabited islands, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, was triggered when the Japanese government in September purchased some of the islands from the private Japanese owner.
The purchase triggered at times violent anti-Japanese riots in China.
Ships from Japan, China and Taiwan -- which also claims the islands -- have engaged in stand-offs and last week Japan scrambled fighter jets after a Chinese state-owned plane flew over the area.
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