No topic off-limits at summit with Japan, S. Korea, says China

Talks will focus on cooperation; recent inter-Korea summit also high on the agenda

BEIJING • No areas will be off-limits in talks next week when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visits Japan, a senior Chinese diplomat said.

China and Japan, Asia's two largest economies, have been trying to reset ties after years of increasingly bitter dispute over a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea and the legacy of Japan's invasion of China before and during World War II.

Japan will host a summit with Mr Li and South Korean President Moon Jae In in Tokyo on Wednesday to discuss regional issues, where the topic of North Korea is also expected to be high on the agenda.

The meeting, which has been hosted in turn by each of the three nations since the first was held in Japan in 2008, aims to strengthen dialogue and cooperation.

Chinese Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Kong Xuanyou said yesterday that Mr Li's trip to Japan - the first by a Chinese premier in eight years - represented a "rare development opportunity", though he admitted challenges remain.

"There will be no off-limits areas," he told reporters, referring to the talks between Mr Li and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"As long as there are subjects both are interested in, they can be put on the table for candid discussion. (We) hope to increase understanding through discussion, which is helpful in narrowing differences on certain problems."

NORTH KOREA ISSUE

Given the latest developments in the Korean peninsula, I believe leaders of the three countries will exchange views on how to further stabilise and improve the situation. It will show the world that the three countries are determined to resolve the Korean peninsula problem through coordination and cooperation.

MR KONG XUANYOU, Chinese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The three countries will also discuss North Korea and other regional issues so that they can better coordinate policy, Mr Kong said.

"I believe the three sides will focus not just on the Korean peninsula, but also on other issues that are important to the region, including how to build a more open regional trade and economic cooperation mechanism and system," added Mr Kong, who is also China's special envoy for the North Korean nuclear issue.

At Mr Moon's groundbreaking summit last month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, both sides agreed to work towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Mr Kim is due to meet United States President Donald Trump in coming weeks.

"Given the latest developments in the Korean peninsula, I believe leaders of the three countries will exchange views on how to further stabilise and improve the situation. It will show the world that the three countries are determined to resolve the Korean peninsula problem through coordination and cooperation," said Mr Kong.

Bracketing the summit, Mr Li will make a state visit to Japan from Tuesday to Friday, where he will meet Emperor Akihito, Japan has said.

Before going to Japan, Mr Li will travel to Indonesia, which is seeking ways to speed up a US$5 billion (S$6.8 billion) high-speed rail project being built by a consortium of local and Chinese state firms that is facing obstacles over land ownership issues.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2018, with the headline 'No topic off-limits at summit with Japan, S. Korea, says China'. Print Edition | Subscribe