Can the latest talks between the Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers serve as the first step in improving bilateral relations?
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on Saturday (April 30) during a visit to China.
The top diplomats confirmed that the two countries are “partners for cooperation,” while also agreeing that they will make efforts to move bilateral ties forward.
Kishida’s visit to China is the first by a Japanese foreign minister in 4½ years for an event other than an international conference. Saturday’s talks lasted for about four hours and 20 minutes, including a luncheon.
We welcome the resumption of top-level talks — which had not been held for an extended period — between the two countries and the exchange of candid views on various issues.
Kishida also met with Premier Li Keqiang, who referred to Japan-China relations by saying, “I hope that we will work together to get them back on the right track once again.”
Japan aims to host trilateral summit meetings of the leaders and foreign ministers from Japan, China and South Korea in the latter half of this year.
Tokyo has improved its relations with Seoul by reaching a deal on the issue of so-called comfort women, but Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration is reportedly reluctant to hold the summit.
Japan and China should make steady efforts to coordinate the schedule for the summit, in addition to the schedule for high-level economic dialogue between ministers of the two countries after they agreed in November last year to hold such talks at the earliest possible date.
Wang’s comments on Japan-China relations, however, were questionable. “The China-Japan relationship has suffered various setbacks, falling to a low ebb,” he said.
“The Japanese side knows clear[ly] the reason behind that.”
His remarks suggested that only Japan should be blamed for the stagnated ties.
Wang made the remarks apparently with an eye on the statement issued at the recent meeting by the foreign ministers from the Group of Seven major powers, in which they implicitly called for China to refrain from building military bases in the South China Sea, even though they did not name the country.
However, it is China that has been forcibly building artificial islands by ignoring international law, thus causing tensions with countries concerned. We consider Wang’s remarks to be off the mark.
Wang also said, “Japan should stop spreading or echoing all kinds of ‘China threat’ or ‘China economic recession’ theories.”
This remark should be described as nothing but unproductive defamation.
Kishida expressed concerns over Beijing’s activity in the East and South China seas.
It is important for Japan to patiently continue calling for China to restrain its self-serving maritime advances and abide by international rules.
Japan and China have a leading role in promoting peace and prosperity in the world. Even though they have opposing opinions, the two countries should build constructive ties from a broad standpoint of a mutually beneficial relationship.
Kishida and Wang expressed “serious concerns” over North Korea, as it has continued ballistic missile launches and other military provocations.
The two ministers also confirmed that their countries would cooperate to strictly enforce the United Nations Security Council’s sanctions resolution against Pyongyang.
China holds the key to the amount of pressure that can be applied to North Korea. Japan should work closely with the United States and South Korea to call for Beijing to take productive action against Pyongyang.
The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 newspapers.