Foreign and Military Affairs

Beijing and Tokyo get closer

By Wu Jiao and Cheng Guangjin (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-15 07:38
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YOKOHAMA / BEIJING - Top Chinese and Japanese diplomats on Sunday vowed to adopt concrete measures to improve bilateral relations one day after an eye-catching meeting between senior leaders of the two neighbors.

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Hopes for a diplomatic thaw were raised since a territorial spat escalated in September and strained bilateral ties, but analysts note that there remains no immediate solution to the disputes despite the meetings.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and his Japanese counterpart Seiji Maehara met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit as they accompanied state leaders for the regional conference.

According to the foreign ministry, Yang and Maehara agreed on carrying out the agreements reached between President Hu Jintao and his Japanese counterpart Naoto Kan one day earlier, firmly sticking to the direction of developing China-Japan relations and safeguarding the overall interests of bilateral ties.

They added that China and Japan should adopt positive measures to enhance friendly feelings between the two peoples, boost practical cooperation, and improve bilateral relations.

Japan's Kyodo News Agency said Maehara, in talks with Yang, urged China to reopen talks on developing natural gas field in the East China Sea, while Yang took a cautious stance and said a proper atmosphere should be created first.

The two sides also agreed to cooperate on the goal of nuclear non-proliferation on the Korean Peninsula and tackling global warming, striving to further develop their strategic and mutually beneficial partnership, the Kyodo report said.

Kyodo added that the bilateral meetings over the weekend raised hopes for an ease in diplomatic tensions.

Hu's meeting with Kan was the first formal one between top leaders of the two nations since a collision between two Japanese Coast Guard patrol boats and a Chinese trawler on Sept 7 in waters off China's Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

Beijing went on to suspend all high-level contacts with Tokyo after Japan detained the captain of the Chinese boat.

On Saturday, Hu stressed to Kan it is in the interests of both peoples for China and Japan to follow a road of peace, friendship and cooperation during their 22-minute discussion on the sidelines of the two-day APEC summit which took place in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

Hu pointed out that China and Japan should make joint efforts to consistently conduct cultural exchanges to boost mutual understanding and friendly feelings between the two nations, the foreign ministry said.

China and Japan, which are each other's main trading partner, should continue to deepen cooperation and enhance dialogue and coordination on international affairs in a bid to jointly contribute to Asia's revitalization and address global challenges, Hu added.

Kan, for his part, said he was in full agreement with Hu's opinions on developing China-Japan relations.

He also expressed the hope that the two sides would strengthen communications and cooperation and further improve bilateral relations.

A Chinese-issued news release offered "a thorough and precise narration" of Hu and Kan's meeting, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters before the conclusion of the APEC summit on Sunday - aimed at Japanese media outlets that have provided distorted and misleading reports about their interactions.

Ma said President Hu gave Kan a comprehensive explanation of China's "principled position" and views on improving and developing Sino-Japanese relations during the talks.

Analysts, however, have said there is still no immediate solution for the two countries' territorial disputes, but noted that both sides should maintain a positive momentum and create conditions for peoples' exchanges and bilateral trade.

"It is a positive shift that the two leaders managed to hold talks, which is helpful to repair and improve bilateral ties," said Liu Jiangyong, a senior scholar of Japanese studies at Tsinghua University.

However, Liu warned: "we still cannot expect too much. We have to wait for more tangible progress bearing in mind that the territorial disputes are there as before".

"Tensions are eased for now, but internal injury is not soon to recover," said Liu.

Liu added that Sino-Japanese relations should move on with both sides sitting down to calmly deal with the existing disputes, and make more efforts on diversified fields such as strengthening economy and trade, encouraging people exchanges to avoid hostility.

Wang Chenyan and Xinhua News Agency contributed to this story.

China Daily

(China Daily 11/15/2010 page23)