Japan to Stay on Course Regarding U.S., China

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Prime Minister’s Office

The Japanese government does not expect U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China to bring about a significant change in the confrontational U.S.-China relationship. Japan plans to continue to cooperate with the United States by tightening export controls on advanced semiconductors, among other measures, while also maintaining communication with China to avoid unexpected clashes.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference Monday: “Stability in the U.S.-China relationship is of crucial importance for the international community. Based on the strong relationship of trust with our ally, the United States, we would like to urge China to fulfill its responsibilities as a major country.

In November last year, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in person for the first time in Thailand, where a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) nations was held. Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi visited China in April, and the Japan-China defense ministerial meeting was held in Singapore earlier this month. Dialogue between the two governments is ongoing.

“It is important to maintain close communication at all levels,” Kishida said in a speech in Tokyo on Sunday. He also expressed his willingness to visit China. If realized, it will be the first visit by a Japanese prime minister to China since then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit in December 2019.

Meanwhile, China is opposed to Japan’s plan to tighten controls on exports of advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Chinese Coast Guard vessels have repeatedly entered Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. Also, Japanese citizens detained by Chinese authorities have not been released.

This year marks a diplomatic milestone, the 45th anniversary of the signing of the Japan-China Treaty of Peace and Friendship. However, many government officials, including a senior Foreign Ministry official, believe that it will be difficult to fundamentally improve the bilateral relationship.