NAYPYITAW – Japan and China were making final arrangements to hold a foreign ministerial meeting Saturday in Myanmar’s capital for the first time since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in December 2012, sources familiar with bilateral relations said.
The two sides have broadly agreed to hold talks between Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings through Sunday in Naypyitaw, the sources said.
The talks could take the form of an informal chat rather than a formal discussion, reflecting strained relations over territorial and history issues, they said.
Kishida planned to call for Wang’s cooperation in setting a meeting between Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping when he hosts a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in November in Beijing.
It was not known, however, whether China would show any change in stance over its refusal to hold a summit with Abe. China says a summit will be out of the question unless Japan recognizes the existence of a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan, and unless Abe promises not to visit war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.
On Friday, Wang hinted he may meet bilaterally with Kishida while in Naypyitaw, saying: “It’s just a matter of formality to meet or not to meet. What is most important is if there is a will to improve China-Japan relations.”
Wang told reporters he expects Japan to show action toward improving bilateral relations.
Meanwhile, Kishida was to hold talks with South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se on Saturday afternoon, according to officials in Seoul. It would be the first foreign ministerial meeting between the two countries since last September.
Japan and South Korea also planned to hold a trilateral meeting between Kishida, Yun and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry later on Saturday. The three were scheduled to attend an ASEAN-plus-three foreign ministerial meeting the same day.
On Sunday, Kishida, Yun and Kerry are set to attend the 27-member ASEAN Regional Forum and a foreign ministerial session of the East Asia Summit. Kishida plans to seek informal contacts with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong on the sidelines of the forum.