Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) agreed in talks on Friday to work closely together by holding high-level meetings, including summits, but did not discuss the possibility of a visit by Xi to Japan.
“I told [Xi] that the stability of Japan-China relations is crucial, not only for the two countries, but also for the region and for international society,” Suga told reporters after their telephone conversation.
His talks with Xi late on Friday were his first since taking office just over a week ago, replacing former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, who resigned due to poor health.
A planned visit by Xi to Japan in April was indefinitely postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan had triggered protests even within Japan’s governing party because of China’s tightening of controls over Hong Kong and its assertive actions in regional seas.
“We did not discuss [Xi’s] possible visit to Japan,” Suga said.
The leaders agreed to hold summits and other high-level meetings to cooperate in bilateral, regional and international issues, he said.
Relations between the two Asian rivals have improved recently as China faces heightened tensions with the US.
However, Japan sees China’s military development and increasingly assertive stance in the East and South China seas as a major security threat.
The Japanese-controlled Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — known as the Senkaku Islands, or Tonoshiro Senkaku, in Japan and the Diaoyu Archipelago (釣魚群島) in China — are claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China, but Chinese Coast Guard vessels routinely enter the islands’ waters.
Xinhua news agency reported that Xi noted the improvement in relations, saying that China stands ready to work with the Suga government to deepen cooperation in mutually beneficial areas such as trade and to handle sensitive issues, including historical ones.
Japan’s military invasion of China in the 1930s and 1940s remains a sore spot between them.
Earlier on Friday, Suga also held talks by telephone with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed his intention to work together to achieve a “free and open Indo-Pacific region” aimed at checking China’s maritime assertiveness.
On Thursday, Suga held talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and urged him to take actions to mend bilateral relations badly damaged by war compensation issues.
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