Kishida, Li Fail to Close Gap Over Treated N-Plant Water; Japan to Seek Summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping

Pool photo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese Premier Li Qiang shake hands before their talks in Seoul on Sunday.

SEOUL — Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese Premier Li Qiang did not close the gap between their nations on a number of outstanding issues, including the treated water discharged from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, during their talks in Seoul on Sunday.

Kishida and Li did confirm, among other matters, that they would promote “strategically reciprocal relations” between Japan and China. The Japanese government will now seek a summit meeting between Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping in conjunction with an international conference in a third country, and continue searching for ways to resolve the problems between the two nations.

“Working from a broad perspective, I want to exchange opinions [with China] further, to provide a guideline for efforts by the governments of both countries,” Kishida said during the talks.

Li said: “Complex changes are occurring in international politics and the economic climate that are impacting China-Japan relations as well. I hope Japan and China will move closer to each other and properly handle misunderstandings.”

China’s ban on imports of Japanese marine products following discharge of the treated water from the nuclear plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. is the biggest pending issue between the two countries. The discussions on Sunday failed to reach an agreement, as Li referred to the water as “nuclear-contaminated” and the two sides could not agree on terms for the immediate end to the ban that Japan is seeking.

Although Kishida and Li agreed to accelerate working-level talks between their countries, it is likely to be difficult to settle the matter quickly. During the two meetings held so far by specialists from both governments, China has demanded that inspections be extended to more objects, such as soil around the nuclear plant.

During the talks on Sunday, Kishida expressed his serious concern over repeated intrusions into Japanese waters by Chinese vessels around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. Kishida also sought again the immediate removal of buoys China brought to waters inside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone without permission.

Kishida further requested an immediate release of Japanese nationals detained by Chinese authorities, but there was no clear progress on any of these issues.

Kishida told Li about his concern over China’s military drills around Taiwan as well.

“I’m closely watching developments, including the recent military situation. Peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is extremely important to the international community,” Kishida stressed.

According to China’s Foreign Ministry, Li said, “This is the crux of China’s core interests, and it is a red line,” seeking to check moves toward Japan-Taiwan cooperation.

“If we insist on what we should insist on, it will reach Xi through Li. The real test will be the talks with Xi,” a person close to the Japanese government said.

To stabilize Japan-China relations and to solve individual matters of concern, Kishida is aiming to hold a summit meeting with Xi at an appropriate opportunity, such as the Group of 20 summit talks in Brazil in November, which Xi is expected to attend.