Abe suggests a Japan-China summit is needed to mend ties

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggested Tuesday it is necessary for the leaders of Japan and China to hold talks and improve bilateral relations soured by the Senkaku territorial dispute, and that North Korea will face a “strict response” if it conducts another nuclear test.

“There might be a need to re-establish the relationship, starting with a summit,” Abe said on TV, referring to the growing tensions over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by Beijing.

The isles are Japan’s “inherent territory” and there is “no room for negotiations” over the sovereignty of the islets, Abe said, reiterating Tokyo’s position. But he also said the two countries need to rebuild a “strategic partnership of mutual benefit” and “hold a summit or high-level talks because of the problems we have faced.”

The comments followed recent visits to China by Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of New Komeito, the junior coalition partner of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, and Tomiichi Murayama, who was prime minister in 1995 when Japan issued a statement apologizing for the wartime aggression in Asia.

Yamaguchi conveyed a personal letter from Abe to new leader Xi Jinping on Friday. He quoted Xi as saying he will “seriously consider” Yamaguchi’s proposal for a Japan-China summit while expressing hope the two countries would develop a “strategic relationship of mutual benefit.”

With North Korea vowing to carry out what would be its third nuclear test, Abe said Pyongyang will face a “rather strict response” from the international community if it goes ahead. The Abe government has said it will cooperate on the issue with the United States and South Korea in line with U.N. resolutions.

“It is important to have (North Korea) understand it will gain nothing by challenging the international community,” Abe said.

He is expected to visit the United States next month for talks with President Barack Obama at a time when Japan is studying whether to join negotiations on the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade framework, which is drawing opposition from farmers and some of the LDP lawmakers who rely on their votes.

Abe has said numerous times that Japan won’t join the TPP talks if it is required to eliminate tariffs without exception, while adding the government will decide on its position and show the public a clear “direction” ahead of the Upper House election expected in July.