May 22, 2006

Japan trade minister threatened over China ties

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's trade minister known for his
close ties with China received a razor blade along with a
letter in the mail, threatening him not to flatter Beijing,
Japanese media said on Tuesday.

Toshihiro Nikai is one of the few ministers in Prime
Minister Junichiro Koizumi's cabinet who has personal contacts
with Chinese politicians, and met Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing
in February in a bid to mend frayed ties between the two

"Don't pander to China. You're handing over Japan's assets
and riches," said the letter, according to the reports quoting
Tokyo police.

"We urge you to commit suicide," it added.

An official at Tokyo Metropolitan police declined to
comment on the reports.

Nikai's ministry is jointly in charge of talks with China
over disputed natural gas fields in the East China Sea, which
Beijing has continued to develop despite Japanese requests not

The latest round of talks held last week failed to resolve
differences, although the two sides agreed to meet in June.

The news comes as foreign ministers from both countries are
set to hold a meeting -- the first in an year -- in Qatar this
week on the sidelines of an international meeting.

Ties between the Asian neighbors have deteriorated since
Koizumi took office in 2001 and began annual visits to the
Yasukuni shrine for war dead, seen by China and South Korea as
well as critics at home as a symbol of Tokyo's past militarism.