Turning down the heat: China and Japan agree to cool tensions over the East China Sea
Signs of progress in ties as Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers meet in Tokyo meeting for three-nation summit
China and Japan sought to repair damaged ties on Wednesday following talks between their foreign ministers in Tokyo.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi agreed to cool tensions in the East China Sea and “make efforts” to resolve their maritime disputes.
The two sides also announced that the head of the secretariat of Japan’s National Security Council, Shotaro Yachi, would visit Beijing from yesterday to tomorrow.
A key political adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Yachi will meet State Councillor Yang Jiechi to try and pave the way for a meeting between Abe and President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hangzhou next month.
Wang said the two sides had to create a “good atmosphere” for any talks between Xi and Abe.
The two ministers were meeting in Tokyo on the sidelines of a trilateral meeting which also involved their South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se.
Although they found common ground in criticising North Korea’s latest missile test, tensions among the three East Asian powers continue to run high.
This month Tokyo has made repeated protests over “intrusions” by Chinese coast guard and fishing vessels in waters surrounding the disputed Diaoyu islands, which Japan controls and calls the Senkakus.
Kishida told Wang that China should stop such activities, while Wang said the operations were related to the fishing season. Wang said both sides would launch “as soon as possible” a previously discussed mechanism to prevent incidents at sea and in the air.
But the Chinese and South Korean envoys failed to narrow their differences over Seoul’s deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence radar system (THAAD).
Seoul claims the missile defence system is necessary to deal with threats from North Korea, but Beijing sees it as undermining China’s security.
“I hope the Korean side could rethink the pros and cons,” Wang said after meeting Yun. “I don’t want to see our friendly cooperation being affected by the THAAD issue.”
The three countries urged North Korea to refrain from further provocation and to follow United Nations Security Council resolutions. Just hours earlier, Pyongyang launched a ballistic missile from a submarine that flew about 500km towards Japan, entering its air defence identification zone, Japanese officials said.
Kishida, Wang and Yun decided to work towards holding a trilateral summit in Japan this year, and to advance negotiations on a trilateral free-trade agreement.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and Bloomberg