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'Japan shouldn't seek trade pact with China'

Written by: Staff

Tokyo, Apr 7: Japanese Farm Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, in an apparent criticism of China, said on Friday that Japan should not seek free trade pacts with countries that cannot guarantee the safety of its citizens.

The comments by Nakagawa -- who is known for his hardline views towards China and North Korea -- came after the Trade Ministry unveiled a proposal this week for an ''East Asia'' free trade zone including southeast Asia, and countries such as China, India and Australia.

''A country that cannot guarantee the safety of Japanese civilians would not be a candidate at this point,'' Nakagawa said regarding free trade agreements (FTAs).

Asked if he was referring to China, Nakagawa said: ''In China a year ago, (Japanese) civilians and firms were assaulted.'' Nakagawa, a former trade minister, said a common understanding on issues such as intellectual property rights and the legal system was needed for FTAs.

A row over a Japanese history textbook for schools, which critics said whitewashed wartime atrocities, sparked protests across China last April, when thousands stoned Japanese government buildings and businesses.

The protests marked a low point in Sino-Japanese relations, which have been chilled markedly by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, where war criminals are honoured along with Japan's war dead.


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