PM Abe tells Chinese V-P he is concerned about HK unrest

TOKYO • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday stressed the importance of the "one country, two systems" model for a free and prosperous Hong Kong, telling visiting Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan that he was "very concerned" about the unrest.

He also urged restraint and dialogue to resolve the situation, according to a readout by the Japanese Foreign Ministry of the 20-minute meeting.

The comments come as ties between Japan and China improved this year, with a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping likely next spring.

But this thaw did not stop Mr Abe from raising thorny issues, including maritime security around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, and the recent detention of a Japanese professor in Beijing on suspicions of espionage.

Mr Wang witnessed Tuesday's formal enthronement of Emperor Naruhito. The ceremony was attended by the heads of state and royalty from about 180 countries, who were hosted to a dinner banquet last night by Mr Abe and his wife Akie.

At the banquet, Mr Abe pledged that Japan will continue to work with the global community to "promote peace and prosperity, resolve global issues, develop technology and culture, and foster understanding" in the Reiwa (beautiful harmony) era.

The Premier, in a flurry of diplomacy this week, is holding talks with about 50 visiting dignitaries, with each meeting lasting just 15 to 20 minutes.

Mr Abe is due to meet South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon this morning, in what will be the highest-level summit since bilateral ties sank to a new low over wartime labour and trade disputes.

"It's rather foolish that an unfortunate period of time, not even reaching 50 years, damages the 1,500-year history of friendship and cooperation," Mr Lee said on Tuesday.


He reportedly told South Korean reporters yesterday: "The goal is to create an atmosphere that can promote dialogue, at best."

A South Korean diplomatic source told Kyodo News that President Moon Jae-in had sent a personal letter to Emperor Naruhito.

Mr Lee will also deliver a personal letter from Mr Moon, addressed to Mr Abe, when they meet today.

"The fact that Seoul has sent a high-level dignitary in itself signals a willingness for Korea to celebrate the imperial family and Japan's long history," said Ms Shihoko Goto, senior associate for North-east Asia at Wilson Centre, adding that the coronation had provided a chance for the two countries to talk.

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2019, with the headline 'PM Abe tells Chinese V-P he is concerned about HK unrest'. Print Edition | Subscribe