Japan, China Ruling Parties Agree to Revive Bilateral Forum; Gaps Remain Over Release of Treated Water From Fukushima Nuclear Plant

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi, right, shakes hands with Liu Jianchao, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Wednesday.

Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi and Liu Jianchao, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, have agreed to restart a forum for exchange between the Japanese and Chinese ruling parties.

Conferences between the LDP-Komeito ruling coalition and the Chinese Communist Party have not been held since October 2018.

“I would like to ask you to help exchanges between Japanese and Chinese ruling parties play an important role in bilateral relations,” Motegi told Liu during their meeting held in Tokyo on Wednesday. Liu responded, “I want to deepen the exchanges.”

Forums were to be held once a year in principle, but they have been suspended since the 2019 meeting was called off, partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, Liu also met with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Natsuo Yamaguchi, who heads Komeito. Kishida told Liu that he wants to accelerate mutually beneficial cooperation.

“Exchanges between Japanese and Chinese parties are important for the development of bilateral relations,” Kishida stressed.

Liu is believed to have visited Japan to improve relations with Japan and attract investment to his country as the Chinese economy continues to slow.

However, there are large gaps between Japan and China over such issues as the release of treated water into the sea from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

According to an announcement by the Chinese side, Liu referred to the treated water as “nuclear contaminated” during his meeting with Kishida and demanded that Japan properly address sensitive issues such as the release of the water into the sea.

Concerns have also arisen that the number of Japanese lawmakers who serve as intermediaries between the two countries is expected to decline.

On Wednesday evening, Toshihiro Nikai, a former LDP secretary general who heads the Japan-China Parliamentary Friendship Association, held a meeting with Liu. It was the first public appearance in about a month for Nikai, who was temporarily hospitalized due to health problems.

A Foreign Ministry official expressed concern over the lack of younger lawmakers in the association, which is run mostly by veteran Diet members.