China’s ambassador to Japan has called on Tokyo to build political trust with Beijing and work to ensure maritime disputes do not derail relations ahead of a possible visit by China’s foreign minister next month.
In an article posted on the embassy’s website on Tuesday, ambassador Kong Xuanyou expressed concerns about the worsening state of relations between the two countries.
“There is a concerning trend in Japan that the politicised and irrational discussions about China lately have clouded the understanding of China among the Japanese public and worsened the momentum in Sino-Japanese relations,” he said.
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Although relations between the two countries have warmed in recent years, after decades of animosity over territorial and historical disputes, Kong said that since the start of the coronavirus pandemic things had taken a backwards step.
Allowing such negative discussions to ferment would harm the interests of both countries, he said.
Tokyo and Beijing are reported to be discussing a visit to Japan by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in October. He is expected to meet his counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga who took office earlier this month.
The visit would also pave the way for the first official visit to Japan by Chinese President Xi Jinping. He was expected to visit in the spring but the trip was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Beijing is keen to boost relations with Tokyo amid tensions with the United States. But there have been calls from the Japanese political establishment and the public to cancel Xi’s trip due to Beijing’s handling of the protests in Hong Kong and its aggressive posturing near the disputed Senkaku, or Diaoyu, Islands in the East China Sea.
“The improvement in diplomatic relations between the two countries has not been matched with that of security relations,” Kong said in the article.
“The suspicion in the security domain has led to a lack of political trust and become a major factor in hindering the advancement of bilateral relations.”
Japan has made repeated complaints recently about Chinese government vessels entering its territorial waters.
Kong defended China’s actions, saying it was only safeguarding its own sovereignty – after Japan nationalised the islands in 2012 – but said the two countries should not let such a dispute “hijack public opinion”.
As a treaty ally of the US, Japan has a tightrope to walk in managing its relations with Beijing and Washington. The subject of China is expected to feature when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Japan next week.
Tokyo will also host a four-way meeting on October 6 with Pompeo and foreign ministers of Japan, Australia and India. The four nations are part of a security grouping known as the “Quad” that is widely seen as a collective effort to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
Without naming the US, Kong said the ideological confrontation created by a “certain country” had brought a “new hindrance” to economic cooperation between China and Japan and sabotaged the global supply chain.
He openly criticised Washington for “covertly or overtly forcing other countries to pick a side” between China and the US, and called for the Japanese government to “cautiously exercise its administrative control over the market” and provide a fair and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese companies investing there.
Kong also called on Japan to stay out of the South China Sea dispute and to “respect and support” Beijing’s efforts to resolve the conflict through the negotiations of a code of conduct for the waterway.
“In recent times the South China Sea issue has constantly received attention in Japan, but the reality is that the situation in the South China Sea has maintained a positive momentum. This is not a problem between China and Japan,” he said.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi may visit Japan in October, news report says
- China-Japan ties: Coronavirus and US tensions cloud hopes for ‘new era’
- China-Japan ties in steady hands if Yoshihide Suga takes over from Shinzo Abe, analysts say
- US-China relations: Beijing should contain ‘extreme nationalism’, ex-diplomat warns
This article China-Japan relations: don’t let maritime spat hamper progress, Chinese envoy says first appeared on South China Morning Post