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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Rough road lies ahead for Japan’s diplomacy toward China

  • August 6, 2022
  • , Asahi, Mainichi, Nikkei, Sankei
  • JMH Summary
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All national papers except Yomiuri reported on Saturday that Japan’s diplomacy toward China is now at a crossroads amid the escalating tensions between the United States and China and ahead of the 50th anniversary of Sino-Japanese diplomatic normalization in September. Nikkei forecast that Beijing may no longer tolerate Japan reaping economic benefits from trade with China while taking a tough position toward it on the geopolitical and security fronts. On China’s unilateral cancellation of a bilateral foreign ministerial meeting in Cambodia on Thursday, the business daily said Japan had hoped to use the session to arrange a virtual summit between Kishida and President Xi in the fall to cement bilateral reconciliation. The daily said the Kishida administration is still eager to keep open the lines of communication with China, noting the absence of an NSC meeting in response to the Chinese ballistic missiles that splashed down within Japan’s EEZ, marking a sharp contrast with the response to DPRK missile provocations. The paper projected, however, that Japan’s strategy of keeping economic and security issues separate in dealing with China may no longer be valid as Beijing sees Tokyo as being increasingly unified with Washington.

 

Asahi said Japan is alarmed by the multiple military exercises China has been conducting near Okinawa in retaliation for Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, noting that China’s latest provocative moves on top of the various types of military coercion it has staged around Japan, including in the vicinity of the Senkakus, over the past few years have perhaps prompted the Kishida administration to renew its resolve to bolster the nation’s defense capabilities at an accelerated pace. As for Japan’s diplomatic approach toward Beijing, the paper forecast that it has few viable options other than seeking dialogue in the face of the escalating U.S.-China conflict.

Mainichi wrote that the GOJ remains committed to seeking dialogue with China to prevent the deterioration of bilateral relations. “It is important to maintain communications especially because tensions are running high,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno on Friday. “Our position of bringing the situation under control through dialogue remains unchanged. We are always open to communication.” The paper projected, however, that the administration’s pro-dialogue approach may not be sustainable since the anti-Chinese mood is likely to rise within the LDP and among the public in response to the missile provocations.

 

Sankei wrote that some LDP officials are uneasy about what they see as the Kishida administration’s “muted” response to China’s launch of ballistic missiles near remote islands in Okinawa. They were also apparently displeased with GOJ officials’ statements that Japan was in no position to comment on Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. The fact that Vice Foreign Minister Mori protested the missile launch over the phone with the Chinese ambassador to Japan reportedly upset these LDP politicians, with one of them arguing that the Japanese official should have summoned the Chinese envoy to his office instead. They also complained about the GOJ’s failure to share information on the missile launch with relevant Okinawa authorities even though the provocations had a significant impact on local residents, including fishermen who chose to steer clear of the area for safety reasons. According to the paper, these critics have attributed the Kishida administration’s weak reaction to what they see as its pro-China orientation.

 

Meanwhile, Asahi wrote that the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers walked out of the East Asia Summit (EAS) foreign ministerial meeting held in Cambodia on Friday when Foreign Minister Hayashi began delivering his remarks apparently to convey their displeasure with Japan’s response to the situation in Ukraine and Taiwan. The paper speculated that the Chinese government has been taking a hard line on the dispute over Taiwan based on the assessment that the country is not internationally isolated on this issue. The daily also said Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan ended up allowing the two autocracies to draw even closer together.

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