• Kyodo

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Japan’s neighbors, including China, Taiwan, South Korea and Russia, on Monday voiced eagerness to improve their ties with Tokyo after Fumio Kishida succeeded Yoshihide Suga as prime minister.

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent Kishida a congratulatory letter saying he would like to boost mutual trust and cooperation through dialogue and communication.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang, in a separate message, said the two sides should promote the healthy and stable development of bilateral relations and jointly welcome next year’s 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations.

Japan and China have been at odds over issues related to the East China Sea and human rights, as well as various trade and economic issues, while Beijing has been frustrated by Kishida’s support for Taiwan’s formal application to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

However, China is expected to try to maintain stable relations with Japan’s new administration ahead of major events such as the Beijing Olympics and the Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress, both set to be held next year.

In Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen congratulated Kishida, tweeting in Japanese that as Taiwan and Japan are democratic partners, she hopes to work with him to further strengthen and deepen their friendly relationship.

Her office separately thanked Japan for supporting Taiwan’s participation in international trade activities and said the self-ruled island would continue to deepen its multidimensional cooperation with Japan and work together to safeguard regional peace, stability and prosperity.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in a congratulatory letter sent to Kishida, conveyed his willingness to cooperate with the new Japanese leader in improving bilateral ties in a future-oriented manner.

Moon’s office said his government expects to solve not only issues at hand involving the two countries but also global issues like the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis in cooperation with Kishida and his new Cabinet.

Ties between Japan and South Korea have soured over a number of bilateral issues, including wartime labor and compensation, as well as the issue of “comfort women,” even as they see the need to cooperate in responding to issues such as North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. Comfort women are women who suffered under Japan’s military brothel system before and during World War II.

In Russia, one of Japan’s nearest neighbors, President Vladimir Putin congratulated Kishida and said “the development of constructive Russian-Japanese cooperation in various spheres undoubtedly meets the interests of our countries’ people.”

“I would like to confirm the interest in dialogue and working jointly with you on the pressing issues of the bilateral, regional and international agenda,” he said in a telegram, according to Tass news agency.

Russo-Japanese relations have been hampered by a decades-old territorial dispute over Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, which has prevented the two countries from signing a postwar peace treaty.

Elsewhere in the region, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his congratulations to Kishida, saying, “I look forward to working with him to further strengthen the Special Strategic and Global Partnership and advance peace and prosperity in our region and beyond.”

Last month, Suga and Modi met in Washington and agreed to closely work bilaterally as well as with other members of the “Quad,” a group of major Indo-Pacific democracies that includes the United States and Australia, to build a rules-based international order.

In that context, they shared their strong opposition to economic coercion and attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China seas, in an announcement appeared to suggest that Tokyo and New Delhi are getting more aligned in facing the challenges posed by Beijing.

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