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China positive on improving ties with Japan at foreign ministerial

By Masahiko Takegoshi, Ryosuke Okada in Vientiane

 

At the Japan-China foreign ministerial in Vientiane on July 25, despite countering Japan’s involvement in the South China Sea issue and saying China “does not accept the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling because it is illegal and invalid,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also showed a positive attitude toward improving the Japan-China relationship. Behind this is China’s intent to give top priority to the success of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, which will directly impact President Xi Jinping’s reputation.

 

A senior Chinese government official criticized Japan, saying that after the tribunal ruling, “Japan got more excited than any of the nations in the South China Sea area.” The Foreign Ministry spokesperson also issued a statement on July 24 mentioning Japan by name, saying that “it is not a party to the South China Sea issue, so it has no business making statements,” reflecting China’s serious concern about Japan’s moves.

 

On the other hand, Wang engaged Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama in a discussion on future bilateral relations that lasted much longer than the scheduled time on July 19 during Sugiyama’s visit to China. Wang also agreed to lay the groundwork for a Japan-China-ROK foreign ministerial in late August and Xi’s summit meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the G20 Summit.

 

Toward the end of the foreign ministerial on July 25, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said to Wang: “Only true friends are able to discuss not only positive topics, but also difficult issues.” Wang responded with: “I see our discussion in a positive light.”

 

Although Japan is seriously concerned about China’s maritime advances, it reckons that the period before the G20 Summit will be a good time to draw China into dialogue. It has been making high-level contacts since this spring.

 

Kishida was pleased with his success in drawing a positive response from China on improving relations. He said: “We had a meaningful exchange of views.”

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