Japan and China have agreed to cooperate on trade and the pandemic while leaving the territorial dispute off unresolved.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is meeting Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday, marking Beijing’s first high-level contact with Japan’s new leader.
Wang met his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi on Tuesday where they agreed to cooperate on trade and fighting the coronavirus, but maintained their stances on territorial disputes, including on the Senkaku islands, also known in China as Diaoyutai, leaving the thorny issue unresolved.
According to TV network NHK News, Motegi also urged China for more transparency about its policy in the far western region of Xinjiang, where the United Nations says about one million ethnic Uighur people have been detained in re-education camps that China says are vocational training centres.
Wang and Motegi did not discuss Chinese President Xi Jinping’s delayed visit to Tokyo, Japanese media reported.
The two-day visit by China’s foreign minister comes amid growing concerns over Beijing’s assertiveness in the region.
While Japan’s security strategy is grounded on its alliance with the United States, it has also pursued economic interests through trade with China, its top trading partner.
Next stop: Seoul
On Wednesday morning, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato met Wang for 30 minutes.
Kato told Wang that Japan’s stance on valuing its relations with China had not changed under the Suga administration, which aimed to “build a stable Japan-China relationship,” he said at a regular briefing.
But he reiterated concerns over China’s continuing activity in East China Sea and expressed concern about political developments in Hong Kong.
The two countries are engaged in various issues as neighbours, but these matters should be handled with mutual respect, Wang told reporters after the meeting Kato, according to the Jiji Press news agency.
Wang will later make a courtesy call on Japan’s prime minister, who has so far sought to balance Japan’s deep economic links with China with security concerns, including Beijing’s claims over the disputed isles that are controlled by Japan.
While Suga has steered clear of the harsh anti-China rhetoric used by the US, he has moved to counter its influence by deepening ties with Australia and choosing Vietnam and Indonesia for his first overseas trip.
Japan’s government has complained of China’s “relentless” intrusions in waters around the islets claimed by both nations.
After his meeting with Suga, Wang is set to fly to Seoul, amid expectations that he could use the trip to try to bring South Korea closer with the strategic rivalry between Washington and Beijing expected to continue under the administration of incoming US President Joe Biden.
Wang is expected to hold talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Thursday to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula among other issues, according to the Yonhap news agency.
The agenda for their talks is also likely to include the countries’ efforts to arrange a visit to South Korea by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Seoul’s push to host a trilateral summit among the leaders of South Korea, China and Japan.
Wang last visited Seoul in December 2019.