After several failed attempts to arrange a teleconference, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was finally able to speak with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on Monday as Tokyo seeks to defrost chilly bilateral ties.
In their first talks since North Korea’s January nuclear test, Kishida said he spoke with Wang for about 45 minutes, adding that both parties agreed to work closely on implementing new United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang approved earlier this month.
Kishida also said the two countries agreed to cooperate on arranging a diplomatic schedule, including his visit to China. Kishida has repeatedly expressed a desire to visit the country by the end of this spring.
“I said both countries have to make constructive efforts to move bilateral relations forward,” Kishida told reporters.
Monday’s conversation could be a sign of China softening its stance at a time when bilateral relations between the two Asian powers have experienced some hiccups following North Korea’s provocative actions.
Japan has repeatedly requested talks with China, but all requests have been declined.
During high-level talks last month between the two nations, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou suggested a meeting between State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Shotaro Yachi, head of the National Security Council’s secretariat.
Last November, the two countries agreed to resume mutual visits by foreign ministers, host high-level economic talks earlier this year, and restart talks on the co-development of natural resources in the East China Sea based on a 2008 agreement. So far, however, none of these meetings have materialized.
Last week, at a news conference in Beijing during the annual meeting of China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, Wang criticized Japan, saying that he believes Tokyo is “double dealing” by creating trouble even as Tokyo says it wants to improve ties.
Wang also said Japan is entirely responsible for the delay in improving bilateral ties.
A high-ranking Foreign Ministry official slammed Wang’s comments last week, saying that Japan has never antagonized China, and urging Beijing will follow through on the agreement.