Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida vowed Monday to move Sino-Japanese ties into “a new era” when he heads later this week to Beijing, where the contentious South China Sea dispute is expected to top the agenda in his meetings with Chinese officials.
“Through candid dialogue with the Chinese side I hope to get the gears moving to establish a Japan-China relationship that is appropriate for the new era,” Kishida said in a speech in Tokyo. “I hope the Chinese side will cooperate in a positive manner.”
He plans to meet Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his trip that starts Friday.
“Honestly speaking, not only the Japanese people but also the states of the Asia-Pacific region and the international community are very worried about (China’s) fast-paced and opaque increase in military spending and unilateral actions to change the status quo as seen in the East and South China Seas,” Kishida said.
Japan has expressed concern about China’s moves to construct artificial islands and outposts in the disputed waters, arguing that such acts escalate tension in the region.
Beijing, meanwhile, has opposed Tokyo’s “interference” in the South China Sea issue, urging Japan, which is not a claimant in the dispute, to refrain from entering the debate.
China is embroiled in overlapping territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea with Taiwan and four members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
“Both Japan and China have the responsibility to maintain the prosperity of the (Asia-Pacific) region by protecting open waters in accordance with rules,” Kishida said in his speech, which was titled, “Views on Japan’s Foreign Policy.”
With Japan playing host this year to the Group of Seven summit and China hosting the Group of 20 gathering, Kishida also called for enhanced fiscal cooperation given signs of uncertainty in the global economy.
“I hope that thorough discussions will be held at the G-7 and G-20 summits,” Kishida said.
Noting North Korea’s continued pursuit of improved nuclear and missile programs, he said “it is important that related countries, including Japan and China, coordinate closely and show a united front” against a recalcitrant Pyongyang.