Japan Seeks Improved Ties with China, End to Seafood Import Ban

Yomiuri Shimbun file photos
From left, The Japanese national flag, The Chinese national flag

The government is cautiously looking to mend ties with China. Beijing has banned Japanese seafood imports over the ocean discharge of treated water from the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant. Japan plans to ask China to lift the import ban based on scientific evidence at future summit meetings and closely watch how China responds.

On Oct. 23, the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China will have been in effect for 45 years. Ahead of the anniversary, a reception was held in Tokyo by the Chinese Embassy in Japan on Thursday and Toshihiro Nikai, former secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party; Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the coalition partner Komeito; and former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda attended.

“Issues still exist in the relationship between the two countries, including the issue of the treated water discharge,” Nikai said. “Both countries should be wise enough to handle these issues scientifically and reasonably.”

Attending from the government was Yasushi Hosaka, parliamentary vice-minister for foreign affairs. “The Japan-China relationship not only offers possibilities for cooperation in various fields but also faces many challenges and issues,” he said in a speech at the reception. He did not mention China’s import ban.

Relations between the countries warmed slightly at a meeting between Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2022. However, with China banning Japanese seafood imports in August, momentum toward rapprochement has slowed dramatically. On Sept. 6, Kishida talked with Chinese Premier Li Qiang on the sidelines of an international conference in Indonesia and asked him directly for an end to the import ban.

“To press China to change its policy, we must reach out directly to those at the top,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official.

The Japanese side is seeking talks between Kishida and Xi alongside an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit scheduled for November in the United States. A meeting between Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers is expected to happen on the sidelines of a trilateral foreign ministerial meeting between Japan, China and South Korea to be held in South Korea as early as November.

“While direct dialogue is important, Japan does not need to push too hard to improve the relationship,” a Japanese government source said.