Tue, Oct 30, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Abe visited China to gain leverage in trade talks: fellow

Staff writer, with CNA

Japan is seeking leverage ahead of trade talks with the US by improving relations with China, an academic said, citing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to to Beijing from Thursday to Saturday.

Tsai Zheng-jia (蔡增家), a research fellow at National Chengchi University’s Institute of International Relations, on Saturday said that judging from the content of Abe’s talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) on Friday, Japan and China reached a consensus on economic issues rather than political ones.

The two nations are at loggerheads on numerous issues, including a territorial dispute involving the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — known as the Senkakus in Japan — in the East China Sea, which are also claimed by Taiwan, Tsai said.

In 2012, relations between China and Japan soured over sovereignty claims over the islands, after then-Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Cabinet moved to nationalize the uninhabited islands, drawing a strong protest from Beijing and triggering massive anti-Japanese demonstrations in several Chinese cities.

The timing of Abe’s visit to Beijing, the first official visit by a Japanese prime minister to China since 2011, was carefully chosen, Tsai said.

It showed that Japan is cleverly walking “the line between China and the US,” he said.

While trying to increase its leverage in talks with the US by moving closer to China, Japan was also careful not to step into a political minefield amid an intensifying trade war between China and the US, Tsai said.

Abe and Xi displayed a “united front” on free trade, as the Chinese leader called on Abe to join China in upholding multilateralism and an open world economy, the South China Morning Post said in a report on Friday.

“Our relations have encountered a lot of obstacles,” Xi was quoted by the paper as saying at the start of his talks with Abe. “It was not a smooth ride, but with our joint efforts, the relations have become more normalized.”

“Healthy relations between China and Japan serve the basic interests of both nations,” Xi was quoted as saying.

Abe told Xi that he hoped his trip would elevate China-Japan ties from competition to cooperation, the paper said.

“China and Japan are neighbors and partners, and we will not be a threat to each other,” he was quoted as saying.

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