As a historic milestone approaches, it is important that momentum toward improving the Japan-China relationship be put on a firm footing. Both sides should promote comprehensive cooperation that contributes to mutual benefits.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Vladivostok, Russia, which both leaders are visiting.
With regard to Japan-China relations, Abe emphasized that “the horizon for cooperation is widening,” and Xi also said both countries “have entered a normal track and have the opportunity to develop and improve bilateral ties.”
Both leaders agreed to make final arrangements for Abe’s visit to China in October. Abe’s trip will coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty coming into force. Abe again invited Xi to visit Japan. It is essential that mutual visits by the leaders of both countries are held regularly and that the leaders deepen their personal relationship of trust.
This meeting was the seventh between Abe and Xi, and their first since November 2017. The fundamental direction of Japan-China relations, which became chilly after Japan nationalized some of the Senkaku Islands in 2012, can be described as moving toward improvement.
China’s moves to patch up ties with Japan seem to come against a backdrop of increased confrontation with the United States over trade policies.
At his meeting with Abe, Xi stated, “Free trade and open economies are important.” Abe indicated Japan would make efforts to maintain close communication with China on this issue.
While criticizing the United States’ protectionist policies, the government should call on China to rectify its unfair trade practices and infringements of intellectual property rights.
Keep sanctions on N. Korea
During the talks, Xi showed expectations for economic cooperation with Japan, with an eye on China’s “Belt and Road” massive economic zone initiative.
There are concerns that the objective of China’s initiative is to strengthen Beijing’s military footprint across the zone. Problems involving excessive debts have emerged in some nations involved in the initiative.
Japan must ascertain the transparency and efficiency of Belt and Road initiative projects.
Abe and Xi confirmed a principle to continue closely coordinating with each other for North Korea’s denuclearization and deal with this issue. Abe pointed out the importance of implementing U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions imposed on North Korea.
Economic transactions have resumed on the border between China and North Korea. If the international net encircling North Korea is loosened, it could upset the scenario pressuring Pyongyang to give up its nuclear development. It is vital that Japan tenaciously prods China to maintain sanctions on North Korea.
This summit meeting also was a crucial opportunity for Japan to convey its concerns about China’s drive to become a “strong maritime power.”
China has made intrusions by its government ships into Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands a common occurrence. Abe told Xi there will be no “true improvement” in Japan-China relations without stability in the East China Sea.
By regularly holding summit meetings and building bilateral trust, Japan must ensure China restrains itself from conducting provocative actions.