Sun, Nov 09, 2014 - Page 1 News List

China, Japan inch near rapprochement at APEC

BIT BY BIT:The nations’ foreign ministers held talks yesterday to finesse details for an expected tete-a-tete by their heads of state in Beijing some time next week

AP, BEIJING

Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida, left, and US Secretary of State John Kerry meet on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Beijing on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

The foreign ministers of China and Japan held talks yesterday ahead of a hoped-for meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after more than two years of frozen high-level contacts.

Tensions between Asia’s two biggest economies over a set of uninhabited islands — which are also claimed by Taiwan — have sparked air and sea encounters that have raised regional security concerns and this coming week’s APEC summit is seen a chance to dial down the friction.

Japanese media reports quoted Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida as saying he asked Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) to arrange a meeting between Xi and Abe at the APEC summit on Monday and Tuesday. Kyodo news agency said a meeting had yet to be finalized.

The talks between Kishida and Wang mark the first time foreign ministers from the sides have met since September 2012. The talks came a day after the sides issued a joint statement saying they had agreed to gradually resume political, diplomatic and security dialogues. China froze high-level contacts amid the island dispute and other contentious issues.

Friday’s statement said that the sides acknowledged their “different positions” on the contested Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台群島) — claimed by Taiwan and known as the Senkakus in Japan. Although Japan has refused China’s demand to acknowledge that the islands’ sovereignty is in dispute, the statement indicated that Tokyo was at least willing to concede that different views exist.

Asked earlier yesterday to confirm an Abe-Xi meeting, Wang demurred, but said China expected Japan to hold to the spirit of Friday’s statement.

“We hope that the Japanese side will treat this consensus seriously, faithfully implement its commitment and create the necessary favorable atmosphere for a meeting between the two leaders,” Wang told reporters

Also in Beijing, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington welcomed the improvement in bilateral ties, but said rebuilding ties would take time.

“We think that any steps that the two countries can take to improve the relationship and reduce the tensions are helpful not just to those two countries, but to the region,” Kerry said.

The China-Japan statement said the sides agreed to hold dialogue and consultation to prevent the island dispute from further deteriorating and to establish crisis management mechanisms.

China was incensed by Japan’s move to nationalize three of the islands in 2012, sparking violent anti-Japanese protests and prompting it to send patrol boats to confront Japanese coast guard vessels in the surrounding waters.

China also objected to a visit last year by Abe to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which honors the nation’s war dead, including 30,304 Taiwanese soldiers, as well as executed war criminals.

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