Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda revealed on Wednesday that he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a his to Beijing last month and that they shared a “sense of crisis” over the strained ties between the two countries.
Publicly admitting his secret meeting with Xi for the first time, Fukuda said at a forum in Tokyo that they both “have the same sense of crisis” about bilateral ties soured by territorial and historical issues.
Tensions between Tokyo and Beijing center on the disputed ownership of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are administered by Japan but claimed by China as Diaoyu. The two countries also remain at odds over their differing perceptions of wartime history.
Fukuda underscored the need for talks between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Xi at the sidelines of the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, due to be held in Beijing this November.
If the meeting does not take place, Japan-China ties will be in a “pretty difficult situation,” Fukuda said. The two countries have had no summit-level discussions since the start of Abe’s second term as prime minister in December 2012.
Fukuda, recounting his meeting with the Chinese leader in late July, said Xi was eager to mend Japan-China relations and “did not say anything bad about Japan” during their talks.
Asked if he and Abe were on the same page in relation to issues about China, Fukuda replied that he has communicated with Abe several times since last year.
Commenting on Fukuda’s remarks about his meeting with Xi, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing that Japan “must take concrete actions to remove the political obstacles that affect development of bilateral relations.”
Qin said China maintains a “consistent” position on improving and developing bilateral relations.
China has said there will be no summit talks with Japan unless Tokyo acknowledges a dispute over the Senkakus.
Beijing also says a pledge by Abe not to make any more visits to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo would be a precondition for an Abe-Xi meeting.
Abe’s visit to the war-related Tokyo shrine on Dec. 26, 2013, drew an angry response from China and South Korea, which view the Shinto facility that honors World War II Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals, along with the country’s war dead, as a symbol of Japan’s militaristic past.
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