Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone visited China last week and met with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, and other Chinese leaders, including Premier Wen Jiabao and State Councilor Dai Bingguo. The meetings did not any produce major agreements, but Mr. Nakasone and Mr. Yang managed to agree in general terms to strengthen bilateral relations.

Both foreign ministers agreed that North Korea should refrain from a reported planned test-launch of a long-range ballistic missile. They agreed to work closely to dissuade North Korea from taking action that would jeopardize peace and stability in the region, and to urge the North to restrain itself.

It is welcome that Japan and China, the chair of the six-party talks on the North’s nuclear programs, agreed on the importance of the participants’ cooperation in the talks to ensure “complete and verifiable” denuclearization of the North.

Prime Minister Taro Aso’s recent statement that the Senkaku islets in East China Sea, known as the Diaoyu in China, fall under the security treaty between Japan and the United States caused a flareup. Mr. Nakasone insisted that the islets belong to Japan legally and historically, while Mr. Yang insisted that they were China’s. But in a clever move, the two agreed not to let differences over the disputed islets harm overall bilateral relations.

In June 2008, Japan and China agreed on forms of cooperation for the development of two of four gas fields in the East China Sea near the Japan-drawn median line demarcating the border of the two countries’ exclusive economic zones. At that time, the two sides agreed to continue talks on the remaining two gas fields. Mr. Nakasone called for an early start of negotiations to produce a full treaty on the joint development of the gas fields. Regrettably, China only offered to continue working level talks.

The two nations should move to broaden their bilateral ties, building on what they agreed on this time, including exchanges of some 1,500 teachers over a three-year period, agreement to launch negotiations to conclude an extradition treaty, and an agreed opposition to protectionism.

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