See More on Facebook

Diplomacy

‘Stability’ aim of Abe’s China visit

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will pay an official visit to China from Thursday to Saturday — the first official visit to China by a Japanese prime minister in seven years.


Written by

Updated: October 24, 2018

The visit will mark the historic milestone of the 40th anniversary of the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty, signaling a turning point in the tortuous bilateral relationship.

The treaty entered into effect on Oct. 23, 1979.

“It would be acceptable even if [Abe’s visit] does not lead to an improvement in Japan-China relations as what we aim [to achieve] is stabilization” of the ties, a senior Japanese government official said.

The relationship rapidly cooled following Japan’s nationalization of some of the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture in September 2012. China strongly reacted to Abe’s sudden visit to Yasukuni Shrine in December 2013. Since then, the two nations have had one confrontational situation after another.

By mentioning “stabilization,” the senior official apparently meant restoring the steady ties that existed in 2012 and earlier.

A turning point came in Hamburg, Germany, on July 8, 2017, at a meeting between Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit meeting of the Group of 20 major economies in the German city. Political issues must be solved one by one while squarely facing the past, Xi told Abe at the meeting.

But doing these must not hinder the development of bilateral economic ties, the Chinese leader added, in an apparent reference to separating politics from economics. Xi gave “a message to call for unconditionally developing bilateral economic ties,” said a diplomatic source knowledgeable about Japan-China relations.

In response, Abe gave Xi a positive view of the Belt and Road Initiative, a policy Beijing announced in 2013 to create a mega economic zone, by saying: “It is a vision with potential. We want to cooperate [with China].”

In May, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang paid an official visit to Japan, the first such visit in eight years by a Chinese premier. On the trip, Li consistently sent friendly signals to Japan.

China’s range of concerns

The change in bilateral relations is attributable mainly to the Chinese side. In recent years, Southeast Asian countries and other nations have piled up complaints about China’s high-handed approach to economic assistance in relation to the Belt and Road Initiative. Infrastructure projects have been stalled one after another as China does not take into consideration its counterparts’ repayment capability. In 2018, pro-China ruling parties lost elections in such countries as Malaysia and the Indian Ocean island country of Maldives.

Furthermore, China has been involved in a confrontation with the United States, which could be called a trade war. With the international environment surrounding China becoming harsher year by year, the improvement of its relations with Japan came to bear more significance.

Domestic situations in China also had an impact on the change. In the meeting of the National People’s Congress — China’s national legislature — in March this year, the constitutional provision that limited the state’s president to two terms totaling 10 years was deleted, making it possible for Xi to continue eternally in the post of the president.

A senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official said, “Xi’s power base has been stabilized and thus he obtained a free hand in diplomatic relations with Japan.”

On Friday during Abe’s visit, a forum will be held about infrastructure projects in third-party countries, such as Asian and African countries, which are included in the Belt and Road Initiative. The forum will be coorganized by Japanese and Chinese governments and private companies. The Chinese side likely intends to make the forum a place where China provides the participating countries with a view that China and Japan are in step in terms of the infrastructure projects.

Security still issue for Tokyo

Under such circumstances, however, Japan cannot wave away concern over its security relationship with China.

According to the Japan Coast Guard, the number of intrusion by Chinese government vessels into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkakus in 2018 was 18 as of Sunday. Japan has protested these Chinese activities each time it detected the intrusion.

China continues to make artificial islands its military foothold in the South China Sea in spite of opposition from Southeast Asian countries.

The difference in the sense of values between Japan and China is also clear.

At a conference to promote exchange between Japanese and Chinese ruling parties in Toyako, Hokkaido, on Oct. 10, Song Tao, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s international affairs department, said that ruling parties of both countries urge the media to report the truth and have the media correct misinformation.

Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who participated in the conference, said: “Freedom of the press is the most basic. It’s quite evident.”

Nevertheless, the Abe administration has launched efforts for the improvement of bilateral relations, seeing many advantageous points associated with it. A senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official said: “In diplomacy, there are factors [like those] seen in the Othello board game. If the Japan-China relationship changes from that of confrontation to improvement, the situation surrounding the Northeast Asia will also change.”

For Abe, whose term of office as president of the LDP will expire in three years, the improvement of Japan-China relations is an indispensable element to the realization of his own diplomatic legacy, including relations with Russia and North Korea.

It is highly likely that Xi will visit Japan next year on the occasions of the G20 meeting and other events in Japan. There is an influential view within Tokyo that the next year is an opportunity for the improvement of the bilateral relations.

Even while a great difference in positions on security and other issues persists, Japan and China are shortening the distance between them by putting importance on their own actual benefits in the economic and diplomatic sectors.

 



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Japan News
About the Author: The Japan News is published by The Yomiuri Shimbun, which boasts the largest circulation in the world.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy

US bill on HK infringes on China’s sovereignty

An editorial from Chinese State Media. The passage by the US House of Representatives of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which confirms the United States’ support for protests in China’s special administrative region, comes as no surprise, given the high-profile support in the House and the visit of Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong and Denise Ho to the US last month. It is also likely to be passed by the US Senate soon. In supporting the legislation, which threatens Hong Kong’s “special status” if certain provisions are not made to protect its autonomy, US politicians claim they are supporting the “rights” and “liberties” of Hong Kong people. China calls the legislation a mechanism that supports separatism. Although the Western media are quick to dismiss such a claim, details of the act reveal Washington’s real agenda goes f


By China Daily
October 23, 2019

Diplomacy

South Korea PM’s Japan visit a chance to mend ties

The two countries have not seen eye to eye after a trade dispute. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon kicked off a three-day visit to Japan in the hope that a meeting with his Japanese counterpart will pave the way for improvements in the two countries’ strained relations. Before heading to Tokyo, Lee said he hoped South Korea and Japan would foster harmonious and mature relations despite difficulties, speaking with Japanese Ambassador Yasumasa Nagamine, who saw Lee off at Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. “I don’t expect that this visit will resolve everything but it will become an opportunity to take a step forward,” Lee said. Lee described Japanese Emperor Naruhito as a “warm and friendly” person, recalling their encounter at the World Water Forum in Brazil in March last year. On Tuesday, Lee attended Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony at the Imperial Palace, which was followed


By The Korea Herald
October 23, 2019

Diplomacy

Mahathir warns of possible trade sanctions on Malaysia amid US-China trade war

From a Reuters report in Straits Times. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday (Oct 21) that his exports-reliant country could be hit with trade sanctions amid rising protectionism highlighted by the United States-China tariff war. Tun Dr Mahathir did not mention the source of possible sanctions on the South-east Asian country, but said he was disappointed that proponents of free trade were now indulging in restrictive trade practices on a “grand scale”. “Unfortunately, we are caught in the middle,” he told a conference in the capital Kuala Lumpur, referring to the US-China trade war. “Economically, we are linked to both markets and physically, we are also caught in between for geographical reasons. There are even suggestions that we ourselves would be a target for sanctions.” The US and China were two of the three biggest export dest


By The Straits Times
October 23, 2019

Diplomacy

Nepal needs development, but not by coercion

Reimagining Nepal and developing it warrants a broad outlook that listens to its people and shows regard for their displeasure. The country’s obsession with bulldozers and excavators as a symbol of development reached an eerie new high yesterday as a viral video sent a chill down people’s spines. In the name of building a road in Dashrath Chand Municipality in Baitadi (roads are synonymous with development in Nepal), an excavator was seen gouging into the land even as locals protested and pelted it with stones. Read: Excavator operator and three others detained for investigation in Baitadi As the excavator operator pressed forward using brute force in a disoriented manner, the massive machine’s toothed bucket knocked down a woman to the


By The Kathmandu Post
October 23, 2019

Diplomacy

New Delhi slams Islamabad for unilaterally stopping postal services

Prasad further said that Pakistan ‘without any prior notice or information has stopped sending postal department’s letter to India’. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday said that Pakistan had stopped postal service from India for the last two months and slammed the move saying that it was in contravention of international norms. “For the last two months, Pakistan has stopped postal service from India. It’s directly in contravention of the World Postal Union’s norms,” Prasad told reporters. “But Pakistan is Pakistan,” Prasad, who is the Minister for Communications and IT, added. He said that Pakistan “without any prior notice or information has stopped sending postal department’s letter to India”. Pakistan has upped the ante against India ever since Parliament withdrew special category status to Jammu and Kashmir by revoking Article 370 of its Constitution.


By Dawn
October 22, 2019

Diplomacy

Beijing sounds warning against foreign interference at annual security forum

China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe delivers a speech at the Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, China. China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe sounded a thinly veiled warning against the United States at a security conference in Beijing, saying that interfering in the internal affairs of others and inciting colour revolutions have led to wars and turbulence in various regions in the world. Such “reckless interference” would not foster harmonious relations, said General Wei on Monday (Oct 21) in his speech to open the conference. Beijing has blamed foreign countries, including the US, for inciting the unrest that has convulsed Hong Kong for five months. It has also


By The Straits Times
October 22, 2019