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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Editorial: Japan, China must work closer to improve stability in Asia

  • November 14, 2017
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 12:15
  • English Press

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping need to build on the good start they made toward improved bilateral ties to ensure that they can work together to play greater roles for stability in Asia through tenacious, cooperative efforts.


Abe and Xi, who met Nov. 12 on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the Vietnamese resort city of Danang, agreed to put the bilateral relationship on better terms.


Symbolizing the positive tone of their meeting were Xi’s remarks describing their talks as a “fresh start” to the bilateral relationship, which has long been strained.


Xi was fresh from the vital Communist Party congress, where he further consolidated his political power, while Abe led the ruling Liberal Democratic Party through a resounding victory in the Oct. 22 Lower House election, a sizable boost to his leadership.


Their enhanced power bases have created a political environment conducive for the two leaders’ fresh attempts to tackle issues that have long kept the relationship between the two Asian powers mired in bitterness.


The two countries should act swiftly to grab this window of opportunity. It should lead to visible results such as mutual visits of the two leaders to each other’s country, which have never been realized despite a lot of talk about the idea, and concrete cooperation between the two countries for stability in Asia.


This is absolutely no time for Japan and China to lock horns over bilateral issues.


The burning diplomatic challenge for both countries is how to stop North Korea’s provocations with its nuclear and missile programs.


During their meeting in Vietnam, Abe and Xi confirmed close cooperation between their governments to ensure strict implementation of the sanctions against Pyongyang adopted by the U.N. Security Council.


It is impossible to guarantee the effectiveness of the sanctions without cooperation from China, which is the largest trading partner for North Korea.


Beijing has a clear interest in preventing North Korea’s behavior from spiraling further out of control.


But China’s strategy to deal with the secluded regime, which focuses more on dialogue, is significantly different from Japan’s approach, which places greater emphasis on pressure.


Tokyo and Beijing have some delicate diplomatic work to do to coordinate their North Korean policies and map out effective international plans to denuclearize the North through joint work with the United States, South Korea and Russia.


During their recent meeting, Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to pursue a common strategy for a “free and open Indo-Pacific region.” This new strategic framework should not be promoted only as a rival to Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” new Silk Road economic zone initiative. Japan and China should hold talks to explore possibilities of cooperation concerning these two proposals.


The two countries should also work together for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a multilateral regional trade pact China has been eagerly promoting.


Both Japan and China are seeking multilateral trade frameworks despite certain differences in their stances. They can and should make constructive efforts to find common ground.


Meanwhile, China’s aggressive naval expansion in the East China Sea and the South China Sea has cast a dark and long shadow over the regional diplomatic landscape.


During his meeting with Abe, Xi stressed his desire to see the two countries share the “strategic common perception” that they should not pose a security threat to each other. If so, China should not take any action that threatens Japan’s security.


Abe also met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in the Philippines on Nov. 13. These two meetings signaled significant improvement in the bilateral ties.


For Japan, its alliance with the United States and trilateral cooperation with the United States and South Korea are vital for its security interests.


But these international security frameworks alone are not enough for ensuring stability in Asia.


As two responsible major Asian powers, Japan and China should do more to become closer in both perceptions and actions. They can only help promote regional stability through their steady progress toward that goal.

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