Posts by Akiko Fujita

  • Pandas Become Diplomatic Casualties

    Akiko Fujita at ABC News Blogs1 yr ago

    It was supposed to be a goodwill gesture.

    After the earthquake and tsunami devastated much of her Japanese city last year, Sendai Mayor Emiko Okuyama asked Beijing if it would loan a pair of giant pandas to the local Yagiyama Zoo to cheer up young kids in the Tohoku region.

    In a meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, China's Premier Wen Jiabao said he would strongly consider it.

    Yet, a year later, that panda diplomacy has been stalled by an escalating dispute between China and Japan over the uninhabited Senkaku or Diaoyu islands. Michiya Ujiie, who is spearheading Sendai's efforts, says he has not spoken with his Chinese counterparts in months.

    "Neither side has suggested suspending the exchange altogether," Ujiie said. "But under these circumstances, I don't expect to get a call at all."

    Sendai residents aren't so eager now to accept accepting China's national treasures. Ujiie said the city has received dozens of emails from residents urging officials to halt the panda luring efforts, saying Sendai should not negotiate with a country that holds so much animosity towards Japan.

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