China-Japan relations

Japan, China seek talks to mend ties at Beijing Apec meeting, report claims

Tokyo denies specific arrangement made for meeting of leaders in November

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 12:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 February, 2017, 4:55pm

Japan and China are trying to arrange two-way talks between their leaders at an Apec summit in Beijing in November, in a bid to mend ties strained over a territorial spat and wartime history, the Nikkei business daily said on Monday.

Such a move would mark a shift in stance by Beijing, which has shrugged off a call by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a summit at the Apec meeting.

President Xi Jinping expressed his desire to mend relations between Asia’s two major powers during a meeting with former Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda, who visited China late in July on a “stealth mission” to broker a rapprochement, the paper said, citing sources from both sides.

In the meeting, Fukuda conveyed Abe’s call for dialogue, while Xi voiced concern over bilateral relations and expressed a positive stance to resolve the diplomatic deadlock, the paper said.

Xi probably referred to conditions for a breakthrough, the paper said, without elabourating, but added that China had previously refused a summit unless Abe made concessions on the territorial spat and his visit to a war shrine in Tokyo.

Abe has yet to meet Chinese leaders since he returned to power late in 2012, as relations cooled over disputed islands in the East China Sea and Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which China sees as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.

Japan’s top government spokesman brushed aside the report, adding that he only knew that Fukuda was in China as chairman of a non-government body based in China that works to boost economic cooperation, the Boao Forum for Asia.

“There’s no truth to the media report that specific arrangements are being made to realise the Japan-China summit at the Apec leaders’ meeting in November,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

“We think it would be good if the bilateral summit is held at the Beijing Apec meeting in November. We have been saying that our door is always open for a dialogue and we hope China holds the same stance.”

Suga shrugged off the need to set conditions for a dialogue, saying that the issues between Japan and China are the very reason the two should talk to each other.

A flurry of diplomatic activity last summer aimed at paving the way for a summit came to nothing, and Abe then infuriated China by paying his respects at Yasukuni last December.

Some Japanese cabinet ministers will probably visit Yasukuni on the August 15 anniversary of the end of the second world war. Abe himself may well send a ritual offering rather than attend in person, as he did in April, for the shrine’s spring festival.

Fukuda, who has retired from parliament, could not be reached for comments. Fukuda, whose father oversaw a key friendship treaty in 1978, is seen as a key conduit to China.

Japan has been locked in a territorial dispute with China over a group of East China Sea islets, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. Ships of both nations frequently shadow each other around the islands, raising fears of a clash.

Tension escalated after China declared an air defence zone in the area last November, a move that also sparked concern from the United States and South Korea.

Abe’s visit a month later to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, seen as a symbol of militarism because war criminals convicted by an allied tribunal are honoured there along with war dead, infuriated China and even drew criticism from the United States.