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Japan, China eye Belt & Road council

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Japanese and Chinese governments plan to agree to establish a public-private council to discuss joint projects in other nations related to China’s Belt and Road initiative (see below) , which seeks to create a huge economic zone, sources said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang are expected to discuss and reach an agreement on the matter when Li makes his first visit to Japan for a summit meeting of Japanese, Chinese and South Korean leaders on Wednesday.

Japan aims to improve ties between the two nations through the cooperation in economic fields.

The council would most likely be placed under the “Japan-China high-level economic dialogue,” a ministerial-level forum for discussing economic issues.

Private companies from both countries would participate, as well as officials from the Foreign Ministry, Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, and other related ministries and agencies, and from government-backed financial institutions.

The council would be used for intergovernmental coordination on infrastructure projects and markets, in which both Japan and China are interested, in the Eurasian countries that lie along the east-west path of the Belt and Road zone. The council would also seek out the two countries’ areas of expertise that could be combined.

Japanese firms have knowhow in advanced technology and finance, but struggle to be internationally competitive in the prices they can offer.

The council could help them overcome this to expand further into Africa and Central Asia, areas where Japanese firms lag behind. China would benefit because Japanese companies would elevate the credibility of projects they are associated with.

However, the Japanese government fears that China is using the Belt and Road initiative to expand its hegemony, a senior Foreign Ministry official said. It is also said that China has harmed the fiscal health of some nations by pushing large loans on them.

Therefore, the Japanese government plans to demand that certain conditions be met, such as fiscal responsibility, transparency and fairness.

Along with the trilateral summit meeting, Japan plans to also meet bilaterally with China and South Korea on Wednesday.

Japan plans to welcome Li as an “official guest” — the highest rank of treatment for a foreign premier visiting Japan. Li would be the first Chinese premier to visit Japan as an official guest since Wen Jiabao in April 2007.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty. Abe hopes that by participating in the Belt and Road initiative and giving Li a lavish welcome, he can make progress in having himself and Chinese President Xi Jinping visit each other’s countries.

■Belt and Road initiative

An initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. It comprises the “Silk Road Economic Belt,” through which China is connected with Europe by land, and the “21st-century Maritime Silk Road,” which connects the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.Speech

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