National / Politics

Tokyo admits 'differing views' on Senkakus, opening door to Abe-Xi meeting

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to have a summit meeting in Beijing next week on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, a senior lawmaker in the ruling camp said Friday.

Komeito party leader Natsuo Yamaguchi cited a briefing Abe gave regarding his diplomatic schedule.

Such an encounter would be the first between the two leaders since Abe returned to power nearly two years ago.

Earlier in the day, the Japanese government released a written statement saying Beijing and Tokyo have agreed to recognize that the two sides have “differing views over the recent tension” over the Senkakus in the East China Sea. The islets are also claimed by China and Taiwan.

China has demanded that Japan admit a territorial dispute exists over the Senkakus, which it calls Diaoyu. Tokyo has rejected this, saying there can be no territorial dispute because there is no question about the legitimacy of Japan’s claim on the Senkakus.

China set the demand as one of two conditions for a summit meeting between Abe and Xi.

The document is vague. It does not declare outright that a territorial dispute exists, but the wording may still be strong enough to allow Beijing to save face and argue it has forced Japan issue an admission.

Beijing’s other key demand was that Abe declare he will no longer pay visits to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. Abe has refused to accept that request, calling his visits and the decisions behind them an entirely private matter.

Friday’s statement makes no direct mention of the Yasukuni Shrine. But it speaks of recent achievements in bilateral relations, including an agreement to continue developing a “mutually beneficial strategic relationship” and to “address history straight-on.”

Earlier in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Japan had made no compromise over the Senkaku and Yasukuni issues in its negotiations with China.

“Our positions haven’t changed,” Suga said.

“At any rate, it’s important for the world’s second and third largest economies to be frank and have a (summit) meeting.”