'Positive attitude' needed to mend ties with China, Japan told

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (left) shakes hands with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing, China, on April 30, 2016.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (left) shakes hands with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing, China, on April 30, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

China has told Japan to take a "positive attitude" towards China's growth if it wishes to mend ties, rather than play up the threat posed by the rising superpower.

Bilateral relations should be based on cooperation and not confrontation, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday, as he held a rare meeting with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida.

He added that while both sides wanted healthy ties, Japan needs to "match its words with deeds" and that China would judge its neighbour's sincerity by its actions.

"Stop spreading or echoing all kinds of 'China threat' or 'China economic recession' theories," he said.

As part of what he called a "four-point requirement on improving bilateral ties", Mr Wang added that Japan should work with China to maintain peace, stability and prosperity of the region.

Japan needed "to face up to history", he said, referring to its World War II aggression towards China.

"We have recently seen the Japanese side repeatedly expressing its hope of improving the bilateral relationship," said Mr Wang. "You have also shown your willingness to take the first step. If you come with sincerity, we welcome you."

His tone underscored the wariness still present as the two Asian powers attempt to reset ties.

Yesterday's meeting was a key agenda for Mr Kishida's three-day visit to Beijing. No Japanese foreign minister has visited China in more than four years, after relations plummeted following Japan's nationalisation of the disputed Senkaku isles in the East China Sea that China calls the Diaoyu islands and also claims.

While ties have warmed slightly in the past two years, they remain prickly. Just last month, Beijing accused Tokyo of hijacking the Group of Seven foreign ministers' meeting in Hiroshima to include the South China Sea disputes in their joint communique.

Mr Kishida also met Premier Li Keqiang and State Councillor Yang Jiechi yesterday, with the two Chinese leaders describing bilateral ties as "improving but fragile". Mr Li said: "China is willing to boost mutual trust so that ties can return to normal."

Mr Kishida was quoted by Japanese media as saying it was not desirable that the two countries' foreign ministers had not visited each other for a long time. "I want to resume relations under which we can frequently visit one another," he said.

He also announced yesterday that Japan would further relax multiple entry visa rules for Chinese visitors, and stressed the need to build stronger mutual trust by promoting cooperation in the economy, environment and youth exchanges.

Separately, Japan's foreign ministry said Mr Wang and Mr Kishida "frankly discussed" issues regarding North Korea, the South China Sea and Taiwan during their meeting lasting more than four hours.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 01, 2016, with the headline ''Positive attitude' needed to mend ties with China, Japan told'. Print Edition | Subscribe