Files: Japan opposed China's isolation in 1989

Newly declassified diplomatic documents show Japan suggested at the 1989 Group of Seven summit held soon after the Tiananmen Square incident that a political declaration on China should use more moderate wording to prevent the country from becoming isolated.

The main focus of the Arch Summit held in a suburb of Paris, France, was to come up with a response to China's government .

On June 4, 1989, the Chinese People's Liberation Army used force to crack down on pro-democracy students and other demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, leaving many dead and injured. The Chinese government has put the death toll at 319, but some people argue the actual figure was much higher.

The documents released on Wednesday by the Japanese Foreign Ministry show the host country France and other participants aimed to adopt a political declaration condemning China, but the Japanese government called for the use of more moderate wording to prevent the country from becoming isolated.

The draft prepared by France described the Chinese government's response to the pro-democracy movement as appalling suppression and execution. It referred to possible sanctions, such as the suspension of high-level exchanges and military cooperation with Beijing, and the postponement of new loans by the World Bank.

Tokyo, for its part, called for restraint in criticizing Beijing and did not refer to sanctions. It negotiated to include a phrase in the declaration that the summit members do not want China to be isolated and they strongly request it run the country in the spirit of cooperation and self-restraint.

Other countries reacted sharply to Japan's proposals, but Tokyo remained steadfast in its negotiations, saying it could accept a reference to sanctions, but that it was necessary to include the phrase that was meant to prevent China's isolation.

Then-Japanese Prime Minister Uno Sosuke personally tried to persuade France's negotiator, Jacques Attali, to understand Japan's position.

The final declaration included a phrase that reflected Japan's policy. It read, "We look to the Chinese authorities to create conditions which will avoid their isolation and provide for a return to co-operation..."

Former Japanese ambassador to China, Miyamoto Yuji, was engaged in the discussions on the political declaration as a foreign ministry staff member.

He says it was not right to isolate Beijing nor unnecessarily provoke it or stir up the feelings of the Chinese people.

He says other countries suggested that Japan might be alienated for its proposals, but the Japanese delegation was convinced of its policies.

Professor Takahara Akio of the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Public Policy specializes in modern Chinese politics.

He says looking at the current situation in China, people may ask why Japan helped China so much, but that it would be wrong to look at what transpired back then from today's perspective.

He says many people in Japan at the time felt that the situation in China would become even worse if the country lost support for its reform and open-door policy.

Takahara noted that Japan's position was that the Tiananmen Square incident should be viewed as a very unfortunate occurrence that happened during a long process of development.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry releases public documents once a year that were drawn up more than 30 years earlier and that are considered to be historically significant and of strong public interest.

The files released this time contain more than 10,600 pages created between 1987 and 1990.