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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Abe aims to boost own govt by improving ties with China

By Hiroshi Tajima / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer


MANILA — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe again expressed his desire to improve the relationship between Japan and China during a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday in Manila, following talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday.


“I want to strongly push forward the development of a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests,” Abe said at Monday’s meeting.


Given that there is no sign of major diplomatic progress with Russia concerning the northern territories and other issues, Abe hopes to boost his administration through diplomacy with China in economic and other fields.


According to a Japanese government source, the meeting between Abe and Li was held at the request of the Chinese government. The Japanese side thinks that the premier’s first visit to Japan for a trilateral summit meeting among Japan, China and South Korea would be a step toward realizing reciprocal visits by the two countries’ leaders, Abe and Xi, according to a senior Foreign Ministry official.


The Japanese government is therefore accelerating efforts to arrange the schedule with China and South Korea, in order to hold the trilateral summit as early as possible.


The meeting between Abe and Xi that was held in Vietnam on Saturday prior to the talks between Abe and Li was carried out in “the best mood so far,” according to an official who attended the Abe-Xi meeting. When discussing the issue of North Korea, the two leaders were able to exchange honest views without looking at response guidelines prepared in advance. They also confirmed that they would hold telephone conferences more frequently in the future.


Abe is accelerating efforts to improve the relationship with China because he hopes to cooperate with China on strengthening bilateral economic cooperation and dealing with North Korea. Since Xi established his position as a single, powerful leader at the Communist Party of China’s National Congress in October, there are expectations among Japanese government officials that he can now more easily make a decision to improve ties with Japan.


However, given the situation in the East China Sea, including the regular incursions by Chinese government vessels into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture and China’s unilateral development of gas fields, many believe it will not be easy to resolve the confrontation between the two countries, according to a senior Foreign Ministry official.


Another reason behind Abe’s inclination toward diplomacy with China appears to be the fact that it will take time to produce results in talks with Russia.


Abe aims to conclude a peace treaty that will include the resolution of the northern territories issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has held many summit meetings with him for this purpose.


However, Putin said at a press conference on Saturday that it is not important, for the purpose of concluding a peace treaty, whether the leaders are Abe, Putin or other people, revealing a difference of opinion with Abe.

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