China, Japan vow dialogue to restore bilateral ties

Mr Abe (above) and Mr Xi pledged to speed up talks on the setting up of a maritime hotline between senior defence officials of both countries to prevent accidental clashes in the East China Sea.
Mr Abe (above) and Mr Xi pledged to speed up talks on the setting up of a maritime hotline between senior defence officials of both countries to prevent accidental clashes in the East China Sea.PHOTO: REUTERS

China and Japan yesterday vowed more dialogue so as to bring their bilateral relations "back on the path of normal development", as their current leaders met for one-to-one talks for only the third time.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said both countries should "put aside disruptions" to their bilateral ties, while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed the need to "manage difficult issues".

The two leaders spoke for half an hour last night in Hangzhou on the sidelines of a summit for the Group of 20 economies that ended yesterday. The formal talks were their first in 17 months.

One difficult issue is North Korea, which yesterday fired three ballistic missiles that landed in waters within Japan's exclusive economic zone, in the latest in a series of provocative launches. Another issue is the territorial stand-off between the two nations over a crop of islets in the East China Sea known in Japan as Senkaku and in China as Diaoyu.

Mr Xi and Mr Abe yesterday pledged to speed up talks on the setting up of a maritime hotline between senior defence officials of both countries to prevent accidental clashes in the waterway.

Working-level talks on a crisis management mechanism, which have been held on and off since 2007, resumed in January last year.

"Because we are neighbouring countries, many challenges will confront us and so it is important to hold dialogues," Mr Abe told a news conference last night. "We will continue to place emphasis on dialogue and discussions so as to be able to achieve stability in the East China Sea, such that it is a sea of peace, cooperation and friendship."

Mr Xi separately said that long- term healthy and stable development of bilateral ties will be conducive to the peoples of both countries, though he acknowledged that Sino-Japanese ties have been "troubled by complications at times".

"Both sides should bolster their sense of responsibility and crisis awareness, and work to build on the positive elements of bilateral ties while putting a lid on negative ones, in order to ensure stable improvement of relations," he was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

Yesterday's talks - for which Beijing scheduled 30 minutes although Japan had proposed an hour - came as Tokyo lodged repeated protests against the almost-daily incursions by Chinese vessels into waters near the disputed islands in the East China Sea last month.

Japan has also been critical of Beijing for ignoring a recent international arbitration tribunal ruling that went against Chinese claims over huge areas of the South China Sea. Japan is not a claimant state, and China has accused it of interfering.

On this issue, Mr Abe told reporters: "We need to resolve disputes not by the use of force or provocation. We have to abide by international law and achieve a resolution in a peaceful and diplomatic way."

The remarks came after Mr Xi had, according to Xinhua, told Mr Abe that Japan should "exercise caution in its words and deeds" over the South China Sea.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline 'China, Japan vow dialogue to restore bilateral ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe