Japan PM Kishida holds first teleconference with China’s Xi – The Foreigners magazine In tokyo
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Japan PM Kishida holds first teleconference with China’s Xi

Written by on October 8, 2021

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday for the first time since the Japanese leader took office earlier this week, amid growing tensions surrounding the Taiwan Strait between Tokyo, a close U.S. security ally, and Beijing.

Xi told Kishida he will try to boost “dialogue and cooperation” with Japan, while urging the neighboring nation to “manage differences” over delicate issues such as Taiwan affairs in an appropriate manner, China’s state-run media reported.

It was the first conversation between the leaders of Japan and China since September last year, when Kishida’s predecessor Yoshihide Suga assumed the premiership.

Combined photo shows Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Kyodo)

Japan and China will next year mark the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations. Xi expressed hope that the two countries should “meet each other halfway” and take this opportunity to open up new prospects for the development of bilateral ties.

Xi, meanwhile, was quoted by the media as telling Kishida that China will welcome Japan’s participation in the Beijing Winter Olympics, scheduled to be held in February next year. Japan hosted this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

China has been facing criticism from democratic countries over its alleged human rights abuses in the nation’s regions including Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang.

Several human rights organizations worldwide have asked the International Olympic Committee to reverse its decision to allow the Chinese capital to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, with the United States accusing Beijing of committing “genocide” in Xinjiang.

Xi sent a congratulatory message to Kishida on Monday, when he became Japan’s new leader, saying the two Asian countries should “strengthen dialogue and communication and enhance mutual trust and cooperation in an effort to build a bilateral relationship that meets the requirements of the new era,” according to China’s media.

China is one of Japan’s largest trading partners but the countries are at odds over the sovereignty of the uninhabited Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The Japanese-administered islands are claimed by Beijing, which calls them Diaoyu and often sends coast guard vessels nearby despite Tokyo’s protests.

Japan has also joined the United States and other Western countries in voicing concern over Chinese pressure on democratic Taiwan, which is self-governed but regarded by Beijing as a renegade province it wants to reunify with the mainland.

Kishida has stressed that while maintaining stable bilateral relations is important for the region and the international community as a whole, Japan will “say what needs to be said” regarding China’s perceived shortcomings in upholding human rights and the rule of law.

China and Taiwan have been separately governed since they split in 1949 as a result of a civil war. Their relations have been deteriorating since independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen became Taiwan’s president in 2016.

At a summit in Washington in April, Suga confirmed with U.S. President Joe Biden “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” It marked the first time in 52 years that Japanese and U.S. leaders had mentioned Taiwan in a joint statement.

Following the summit, relations between Japan and Chana have become more fragile, as Beijing’s Communist government has argued that Taiwan is a “core interest” of the mainland.

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