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Japan prioritizes improving relations with China through “One Belt, One Road”

The Japanese government has decided to embark on economic cooperation with China, bearing in mind the “One Belt, One Road,” China’s massive economic initiative, because Tokyo judged that Beijing’s cooperation would be essential to resolve the North Korea issue.


In response to North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests and missile launches, Japan envisions a scenario in which the international community will exert maximum pressure against the DPRK, thereby leading the country to dialogue. To realize the scenario, the UN Security Council’s economic sanctions against North Korea must be fully implemented. The key is whether Beijing will fully carry out the sanctions, given the fact that 90% of North Korea’s total trade comes from China, 


“China’s role in dealing with the North Korea issue is extremely important,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a session of the House of Representatives Budget Committee held on Nov. 27. “We will continue working on Beijing through various channels to fulfill its responsible and constructive role.” By using its economic cooperation as leverage, the government intends to call for China to take further appropriate steps in dealing with the North Korea issue.


In the meantime, Japanese companies are expecting to expand the scope of business opportunities.


As the “One Belt, One Road” initiative is under the direct sponsorship of President Xi Jinping, not a few Japanese companies regard it as a business opportunity. A delegation of the Japan-China Economic Association visited Beijing and Guangzhou on Nov. 20-26 with a record number of about 250 members and met with Prime Minister Li Keqiang in Beijing.


Supporting China’s economic policy, however, entails risks too. The PRC has significantly advanced its military buildup by spending a huge defense budget and advanced both capabilities and technologies. Now, China has begun operating its first-ever overseas military base in the northeastern African nation of Djibouti . The base was built in connection with the One Belt One Road scheme. India, which maintains cooperative relations with Japan and the U.S., is sensitive to the economic initiative by China. 


That’s why the Japanese government intends, for the time being, to support joint ventures to be conducted by the private sectors of Japan and China, instead of the government’s taking the lead in supporting China’s One Belt One Road policy.

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