Communication set-up for China and Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) shaking hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during their meeting in Tokyo, Japan on Aug 24, 2016.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) shaking hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during their meeting in Tokyo, Japan on Aug 24, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

TOKYO • China and Japan pledged to work towards an emergency communication mechanism to prevent accidents in the sea and air "as soon as possible", in a sign of thawing relations between the neighbours.

Beijing also said yesterday that it was possible for Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to meet for a leaders' summit on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G-20) meeting in Hangzhou next month.

This would be dependent on both sides creating a "good atmosphere" for what would only be the third meeting between the two leaders, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Tokyo yesterday.

Mr Wang had met his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida and his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung Se separately, after the trio held three-way talks that were dominated by the North Korea nuclear threat.

They also sought to soothe their often-fraught relations, pledging to work towards realising a high-level trilateral summit in Tokyo this year and push for a free trade deal.

"Trilateral cooperation is a very important part of East Asian cooperation," Mr Wang told his counterparts as he noted the "many problems existing between the three countries".

North Korea came to dominate the hour-long three-way talks, but dicey regional issues came to the fore in bilateral sessions.

Mr Kishida said he told Mr Wang during their meeting that China should cool down activities around the Senkaku/Diaoyu crop of disputed islets in the East China Sea. Tokyo has lodged at least 30 diplomatic protests with Beijing since Aug 5 over incursions by Chinese vessels in waters near the islands.

"I strongly asked him to completely quieten the situation, prevent it from occurring again and improve the overall environment in the East China Sea," Mr Kishida said.

Mr Wang, the first Chinese foreign minister to visit Tokyo since 2012, said it was related to the "fishing season". He added that the two sides will work towards launching a mechanism to prevent accidents at sea and air "as soon as possible".

He said Beijing was still considering Tokyo's request to hold a leaders' summit on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting next month.

Mr Wang separately told Mr Yun that Beijing "firmly opposes" the United States deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) anti-missile system in South Korea.

Seoul has said this was necessary to deter the North Korean nuclear threat, but Beijing finds the advanced system too close for comfort.

South Korean officials said that both sides agreed to strengthen communication on the issue.

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2016, with the headline 'Communication set-up for China and Japan'. Print Edition | Subscribe