Japan, China must build confidence through multifaceted cooperation

The Yomiuri ShimbunIt is essential for Japan and China to try to build confidence by accumulating cooperation and exchanges in a wide range of areas.

It is imperative for them to steadily implement various agreements reached between the two governments.

During their meeting in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang agreed to proceed with the improvement of overall bilateral relations by taking advantage of the 40th anniversary this year of the conclusion of the Japan-China Treaty of Peace and Friendship.

Abe said that he “wants to elevate the Japan-China relationship to a new phase,” and Li responded by saying that “the bilateral relationship has been put back on a normal path.” It is essential to realize a visit to Japan by Chinese President Xi Jinping following Abe’s China visit within this year and thus make reciprocal visits by top leaders of the two countries regular occurrences.

The two countries have signed 10 agreements and memorandums to highlight Li’s Japan visit, the first by a Chinese premier in seven years.

The conclusion of a social security agreement designed to resolve dual payment of pension premiums is expected to significantly reduce the financial burdens of Japanese firms operating in China and their Japanese employees working there.

Concerning China’s import restrictions of Japanese food products that have been enforced in the wake of a disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., an agreement has been reached to hold talks on the relaxation of restrictions. A prompt lifting of controls is called for.

As for China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative on the creation of a massive economic zone, it has been agreed to establish a joint public-private committee to discuss cooperation in third-party countries. The Japanese government must work toward realizing joint projects while ensuring the transparency of these projects.

Resume joint gas projects

In the aftermath of Japan’s nationalization in 2012 of the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, China stepped up its confrontational stance toward Japan, and this had an impact on working-level cooperation.

China’s stance has softened largely as Xi’s power base solidified upon entering his second term in office. Given the worsening of trade relations with the United States, China seemed to feel the need to promptly improve relations with its neighbors. A favorable relationship between the world’s second and third economic powers could also contribute to peace and prosperity in Asia. It is imperative to ensure moves toward a better relationship by returning to a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.

Preventing the state of affairs over the Senkakus from becoming exacerbated is also called for.

China has made intrusions by its government vessels into Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkakus a regular occurrence. In January this year, a Chinese Navy submarine entered the contiguous zone around the Senkakus. China should strictly refrain from acts of provocation that incite tension between the two countries.

Abe and Li have agreed to start in June operating a maritime and air liaison mechanism that is aimed at averting an accidental clash between the Self-Defense Forces and the Chinese military. It is laudable that the issue pending since a decade ago has been resolved.

When vessels and aircraft of the two countries operate near each other, direct communications will be conducted. A hotline system will be installed between the defense and military authorities concerned. Arrangements should be prepared promptly to operate the system adequately.

China has been proceeding with the development of natural gas fields unilaterally in the East China Sea. Negotiations must be resumed as early as possible to prepare for joint development.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 11, 2018)Speech


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