Senior diplomats from Japan and China held talks in Tokyo Tuesday on measures to counter North Korea’s nuclear provocations, laying the groundwork for a possible July meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeo Akiba met Chinese counterpart Kong Xuanyou following a recent series of ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests conducted by North Korea.
The meeting is seen as a prelude to possible talks between Abe and Xi on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, taking place on July 7 to 8.
“We hope to remain closely in touch with each other to make our bilateral relationship more stable,” Akiba said at the start of the meeting.
Kong responded by emphasizing China’s belief that the two nations need to “have a greater sense of crisis,” in what appeared to be a reference to the North’s nuclear threats. Speculation is rife that the pariah state is on the cusp of conducting a sixth nuclear test.
“We were able to confirm that Japan and China share many common interests in dealing with the North,” a senior Foreign Ministry official who has direct knowledge of the meeting said.
“It’s a common understanding among the global community that China has a huge responsibility when it comes to coping with the North. We expect China to exert its influence,” he said.
The dialogue also comes at a time when Sino-Japanese relations are at a crossroads — described as “significant” and “historic” by Kong — and as the two nations brace for the 45th anniversary of the normalization of their diplomatic ties in September this year.
Akiba said that while Tokyo wants to “amplify positive aspects” of the bilateral relation, it still believes “there are challenges we need to deal with properly.” Japan and China are embroiled in a decades-long territorial dispute over islands on the East China Sea.
Abe and Xi last met in Lima, Peru, in November last year on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, where the two agreed to “improve” Japan-China relations ahead of the 45th anniversary.
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