National / Politics

Abe eager to invite Xi as state guest despite some opposition from conservative lawmakers

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe voiced eagerness on Tuesday to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for a state visit, despite some conservative lawmakers opposing the plan due largely to the lingering political unrest in Hong Kong.

“Japan and China have a responsibility for peace and stability in this region and the world,” Abe said at a news conference in Chengdu, China, following a trilateral summit in the city that also included South Korea.

Xi’s envisioned visit to Japan next spring “would be a good chance to show the responsibility of Japan and China,” Abe added.

Touching on the situations in Hong Kong and the far-western Xinjiang region, where Beijing has been accused of violating the human rights of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, Abe called on China to find solutions “through dialogue.”

In Hong Kong, large-scale demonstrations calling for democratic reform have continued unabated, but Beijing has shown little sign of acceding to demands by pro-democracy protesters.

On Monday, Abe and Xi held bilateral talks in Beijing, a day ahead of his three-way summit with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the southwestern city of Chengdu.

In the Beijing talks, Abe and Xi agreed to work together to elevate relations between Japan and China to a new level.

Tension between the two countries intensified after the government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Abe’s predecessor, decided in September 2012 to bring the uninhabited Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea under state control.

The Senkakus, called Diaoyu in China, are controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing.

But bilateral ties have been improving recently, as China has been trying to bolster economic cooperation with Japan amid a prolonged tit-for-tat trade dispute with the United States.

Tokyo and Beijing have also made an agreement to promote reciprocal visits by leaders of the two countries.

However, some conservative Japanese lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have urged Abe to rescind the invitation to Xi.

Brushing aside such demands, Abe said on Tuesday, “We have challenges. That’s why we have to continue dialogue.”