The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan, China must reaffirm mutually beneficial, strategic relationship
日中首脳会談 「戦略的互恵」を再確認せよ

Japan-China relations, which have been hampered by a long standoff, are now at a critical turning point. The summit meeting between the two countries must lead to a substantial improvement in the relationship.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit, which will be held in Beijing on Monday and Tuesday. First and foremost, we wish to welcome the first top-level talks between Japan and China in almost three years.

The Japanese and Chinese governments have released a four-point written agreement on the improvement of the bilateral relationship. The two sides confirmed that they will “continuously develop a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests,” while agreeing to “gradually resume political, diplomatic and security dialogue” and “make efforts to build political mutual trust.”

Japan has conventionally sought a summit meeting with China “without preconditions,” whereas China has called on Tokyo to acknowledge the existence of a territorial issue over the Senkaku Islands as one of the conditions for a summit meeting. As a result, the two nations have been at an impasse.

But China might judge that the stalled political dialogue between the two countries could also determine the success of the APEC meeting, which the country will chair.

We hope that the leaders will deepen the discussion in the direction of mutual benefit from a broader perspective at the summit meeting. Needless to say, the realization of a meeting in itself represents a dramatic, favorable turn in the relationship between Japan and China. The two countries must continually make efforts to maintain regular dialogue at various levels and reach a compromise.

Acknowledged differences

The agreement specified that the two sides acknowledged that “different positions” exist between them over the Senkakus, an issue that has caused tensions in the East China Sea.

The existence of the “different positions” linked to tensions in the East China Sea, which was agreed upon by the two countries, does not hinder Japan’s long-held stance that “a territorial dispute does not exist.” It is quite laudable that Japan has found common ground with China on the issue, while holding firm to its own position.

The agreement also confirmed that they will “set up a crisis management mechanism to prevent contingencies from occurring.”

The situation in the East China Sea has been dangerous, as Chinese fighter jets have repeatedly flown extraordinarily close to Self-Defense Forces planes over international waters. It is urgent that the Japanese and Chinese governments resume bilateral talks on the establishment of a maritime liaison mechanism between defense authorities of the two countries and open a hotline for that purpose.

China sought a definite promise from Japan that the prime minister will not visit Yasukuni Shrine, but Japan refused to accept it. The agreement only mentioned that the two sides “reached some agreement on overcoming political obstacles between them” in the spirit of “facing history squarely and looking forward to the future.”

While the prime minister should avoid visiting Yasukuni Shrine, there is no reason that the prime minister should make such a vow under the pressure of a foreign country. It is appropriate for the two countries to handle the problem with the intention of not affecting the overall Japan-China relationship.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 8, 2014)Speech