Japanese Prime Minister Kishida sees need for dialogue with Chinese President Xi

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a session of the House of Representatives Budget Committee in Tokyo on May 26, 2022, wearing a protective mask against the coronavirus. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday that maintaining a dialogue with Chinese President Xi Jinping is important to maintain “constructive” bilateral relations and cooperative relations despite continued challenges between neighbors. Asians.

Speaking in a parliamentary session, however, Kishida said no specific date had been set for his summit meeting with Xi. No in-person discussions have taken place since Kishida became prime minister last October.

China is a major trading partner for Japan, but their relationship has been marred by a disputed cluster of islets in the East China Sea. Along with its longtime ally the United States and other like-minded countries, Japan is concerned about Beijing’s authoritarian moves backed by its economic and military might.

Japan hosted a Quad Group summit that also involves Australia, India and the United States earlier this week to advance their shared vision of a “free and open” Indo-Pacific. The leaders also opposed any unilateral attempt to change the status quo, given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s expanding influence.

Russia and China flew strategic bombers near the Japanese archipelago as the Quad meeting was held.

“We need to maintain constructive relations (with China). No specific date has been set for our summit meeting, but it is important that Japan and China communicate,” Kishida told a session of the Budget Committee in the House of Representatives.

Kishida said various challenges remained between the Asian neighbours, but added, “We need to cooperate on issues that require our cooperation.”

The last time Kishida spoke by phone with Xi was on October 8.

China continues to send ships to the waters around the Japanese-held Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which Beijing claims and calls Diaoyu, with some entering Japanese territorial waters. Earlier this month, fighter jets and helicopters were spotted taking off and landing on the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning off Okinawa Prefecture in southern Japan, near Taiwan.

Kishida was responding to a call from Kenta Izumi, leader of Japan’s main opposition Democratic Constitutional Party, for a Japan-China summit. Last Thursday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan suggested that President Joe Biden could speak with Xi by phone in the coming weeks.

During his visit to Tokyo earlier this week, Biden said the United States would get involved militarily if China invaded Taiwan, a comment seen as a departure from Washington’s strategic ambiguity over the sensitive issue. Biden later said there was no change in US policy toward Taiwan.

China sees Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised concerns about its implications for the Indo-Pacific, and Japan has repeatedly said the Ukraine crisis should never happen again in the region.