Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said they would seek a mutually beneficial relationship in their first face-to-face talks in a year, stressing common economic interests amid a series of diplomatic disputes.
The leaders of Asia’s two largest economies discussed hot-button issues such as China’s ban on Japanese seafood and the high-profile case of a Japanese businessman detained in China during hours-long talks at a luxury San Francisco hotel on Thursday night.
But they also committed to high-level dialogues on economic issues and welcomed the launch of a new framework to discuss export controls as they met on the sidelines of the APEC regional summit.
The countries should “focus on common interests” and reaffirm their “strategic relationship of mutual benefit and give it new meaning,” Xi told Kishida as they sat across from each other at a long table flanked by their delegations.
In a joint statement in 2008, Japan and China agreed to pursue a “mutually beneficial relationship based on shared strategic interests” aimed at ensuring frequent leadership exchanges on issues such as security and economic cooperation.
But the phrase has become less common in recent years as the historic rivals have clashed over a range of issues, including territorial claims, trade tensions, and Taiwan, a democratic island that Beijing claims as its own.
Most recently, ties have been tested by China’s ban on Japanese seafood following Tokyo’s decision to begin releasing treated water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea earlier this year.
In comments to the media after the talks, Kishida said he strongly urged Xi to drop the ban and also sought the speedy release of the detained business executive, a saga that has dealt a major blow to their close business ties.
Xi said Japan should take its concerns about the Fukushima water release seriously, and the two sides agreed to try to resolve the issue through consultations, according to a readout of the talks. The Chinese figure did not mention the case of the head of Astellas Pharma ( 4503.T ) formally arrested last month on suspicion of espionage.
The Kishida-Xi meeting followed a highly anticipated summit between US President Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, in which the two superpowers agreed, among other things, to open a presidential hotline and restore communications between the military.
Kishida also met with Biden at the summit, where they discussed issues including the “common challenges” he shares with China.
China’s push to reaffirm ties with Japan could be partly due to Tokyo’s close ties with its arch-rival Washington, said Rumi Aoyama, an expert on Japan-China relations.
“I think there is a desire to drive a wedge between Japan and the United States by creating a so-called strategic relationship with Japan amid the US-China confrontation,” said Aoyama, director of the Waseda Institute of Contemporary Chinese Studies.
On the sidelines of the APEC summit, Kishida also met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, their seventh meeting this year. The pair vowed to push for deeper cooperation and discussed common concerns such as North Korea’s missile tests.
Image Source: The Japan Times