Japan-China summit talks raise expectations, caution

Pool photo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands at the beginning of their meeting in Bangkok on Thursday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida received a flurry of requests, as well as professions of hope, from the ruling parties before the first face-to-face summit between Japan and China in three years.

In addition to requests for continued constructive dialogue heard from some in the Liberal Democratic Party, conservative party members expressed concern about the rush to improve relations with China, which has increasingly moved to strengthen its hegemony.

“We expect [Kishida] to say what needs to be said and to ask China to act responsibly, while working together with China in areas where we can cooperate and promoting discussions to build a good bilateral relationship,” LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi said at a faction meeting on Thursday.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of ruling coalition partner Komeito, emphasized the importance of continuing such talks.

“It is necessary to mark the first step toward building Japan-China relations, which will then lead to an expansion of dialogue,” he said at a party meeting.

On the other hand, many LDP members have reacted strongly to Chinese government ships’ repeated entries into waters around Okinawa Prefecture’s Senkaku Islands, as well as Beijing’s increasing military pressure on Taiwan and its launching of ballistic missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone in August.

Former LDP Secretary General Akira Amari told reporters, “It is important not to compromise on any fundamental areas [such as security issues].”

A veteran LDP member of the Abe faction said, “China will only take advantage of us if we prioritize a friendly mood without sending a strong message on the Senkakus or Taiwan.”