Kishida, China’s Li Meet for Bilateral Talks in Seoul; Key Issues to Include Import Ban on Marine Products, Taiwan

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Chinese counterpart Li Qiang shake hands in Seoul on Sunday.

SEOUL — Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Sunday met his Chinese counterpart Li Qiang in Seoul for their first bilateral talks since Li assumed the premiership in March last year.

During their talks, Kishida was expected to call for Beijing to lift its ban on imports of Japanese marine products. He was also likely to express his concerns over the military drills that China conducted in the waters surrounding Taiwan on Thursday and Friday.

Kishida and Li spoke briefly on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit meeting held in Indonesia last September.

China suspended all imports of Japanese marine products after Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. last August began discharging treated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean. Kishida also sought the removal of China’s import ban when he spoke with Li in September.

During a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco last November, Kishida likewise called for an end to the ban. The two leaders agreed to “find ways to resolve issues through consultation and dialogue” over the treated water.

In response, an expert group set up by the two governments began consultations in January. However, China has been demanding an environmental assessment of the soil and other materials around the plant, and no progress has been made on the consultations.

At Sunday’s summit meeting, Kishida was expected to again call on the Chinese side to respond based on scientific evidence and for progress in the consultations among experts.

Kishida will also urge the early release of Japanese nationals being detained by the Chinese authorities and bring up the situation in the East China Sea, including the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, where Chinese government ships repeatedly intrude into Japanese territorial waters.

Following November’s bilateral talks with Xi, Kishida was also expected to reaffirm the commitment to promoting a mutually beneficial strategic relationship between Japan and China that pursues the aims of both sides.

Kishida, Yoon meet

Kishida also held bilateral talks with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at the Presidential Office in Seoul on Sunday.

They were expected to discuss the resumption of defense exchanges between the two countries, which have been effectively suspended after a South Korean naval vessel directed its fire-control radar at a Maritime Self-Defense Force aircraft.

Sunday’s meeting marked Kishida’s 10th face-to-face talks with Yoon. Their previous meeting was held last November.