NEW YORK - Japan and China agreed Thursday to cooperate in handling ship-to-ship goods transfers by North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said.
During talks on the fringes of the U.N. General Assembly, Kono and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also confirmed that both countries will step up preparations for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s planned visit to China in October.
“There have been cases of ship-to-ship transfers in waters near China recently and they need to be handled appropriately by China,” Kono told reporters after the meeting. Some ships were found to be Chinese-flagged vessels.
Japan and China will beef up information sharing to cope with ship-to-ship transfers, according to Kono.
Abe plans to travel to China in October as this year marks the 40th anniversary of a bilateral peace and friendship treaty taking effect.
Sources with knowledge of bilateral relations have said arrangements are being made for Abe to visit China between Oct. 23 and 25 and hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Oct. 24.
“It was the fourth foreign ministers’ meeting of this year and the fact that we have been able to have high-level exchanges (frequently) shows that mutual trust has been building,” Kono said.
Sino-Japanese relations have been thawing recently after they were frayed over wartime history and the ownership of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The islands are controlled by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan.
During their meeting, Kono and Wang recognized the importance of stability in the East China Sea.
They also confirmed the two countries will step up cooperation in advanced technology and work toward the resumption of a currency swap arrangement to provide funds in times of crisis, according to a Foreign Ministry official.
Kono also held talks with his Australian and Indian counterparts the same day, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, and agreed that U.N. sanctions against North Korea should be fully implemented toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Kono told Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj separately that Japan is eager to work with each country to make sure the Indo-Pacific region is free and open.
In a meeting with Payne, Kono said Japan appreciates Australia’s decision to send surveillance aircraft to monitor ship-to-ship goods transfers by North Korea and help ensure the enforcement of U.N. sanctions, Kono said. In another meeting with Swaraj, Kono said India is the most important partner in realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific region and expressed hope for strengthening economic and security cooperation, the ministry said.
Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” aims to promote the rule of law, free trade, and people-to-people exchange. It is partly aimed at countering the growing maritime assertiveness of China.