May 29, 2017

Top Chinese official in Tokyo to renew China-Japan ties

The Hindu

Atul Aneja

BEIJING, MAY 29, 2017 19:17 IST

UPDATED: MAY 29, 2017 19:19 IST

Yang’s visit would be followed by a meeting in August between the LDP and China’s Communist Party.

China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi has arrived in Japan for talks that are likely to begin a realignment of ties, in tune with Tokyo’s fresh bid to diversify relations with Asia.

Japan's National Security Council chief Shotaro Yachi is hosting talks for the Chinese official on Monday afternoon. Mr. Yang’s post is equivalent to deputy prime minister, higher in ranking than the foreign minister. Mr. Yang’s arrival in Tokyo follows the visit to China for the recently concluded Belt and Road Forum (BRF) by Toshihiro Nikai — a top official of Japan’s ruling Liberal Development Party (LDP). Kyodo news agency had earlier reported, quoting an official as saying, that Mr. Nikai delivered a letter from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to China’s President Xi Jinping. It included a message about Japan’s wish to work closely with China on the North Korean issue. It also expressed Tokyo’s readiness to cooperate with Beijing on the Silk Road initiative.

Hours before Mr. Yang’s arrival, North Korea fired a ballistic missile which landed in Japanese waters—an event that is likely to sharpen the focus on tensions in the Korean peninsula, during talks. In China, there is a perception that there is a distinctive shift in Japan’s stance towards Beijing, following an apparent improvement of ties between Washington and Tokyo. The Chinese daily, Global Times had earlier quoted a Chinese academic as saying that “subtle changes” had emerged in Japan’s policy towards China, following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Tokyo-backed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Obama administration’s “Pivot to Asia” strategy, as well as the U.S. decision to send a delegation to the BRF.

An article in the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post, which appeared on Sunday points out that with Mr. Trump’s “America first” policy limiting opportunities in the West, Japan would be wise to engineer its own Asia pivot, particularly in China’s direction. It added: “That would bring Japan four clear benefits: bolstered relations with Beijing; greater influence on policy and investment decisions in Asia; vast investment opportunities in infrastructure for companies and banks desperate for growth; and, renewed global relevance.”

Yet, analysts highlight that Japan’s renewed engagement with China is part of Tokyo’s non-zero sum foreign policy approach towards Asia, which includes a substantial and growing relationship with India. Japan and India are partners in the development of the proposed multi-billion Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), which would focus on the infrastructure development, including digital connectivity, especially along Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline.

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According to a Kyodo report, Mr. Yang’s visit would be followed by a meeting in August between the LDP and China’s Communist Party “to exchange views on how to increase communication and strengthen economic ties”.

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