Suga and Xi affirm cooperation in first talk
>>TOKYO: In their first talks, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping to closely cooperate for the further development of bilateral ties, despite differences over thorny issues.
Mr Suga, who took office last week, said to reporters he told Mr Xi over the phone, “Stable relations between Japan and China are extremely important not only for both countries but for the region and the international community, and that we both have a responsibility in this regard.”
He said the two leaders agreed to “work closely together at a high level” going forward.
The talks came amid heightened tension between China and the US, Japan’s principal security ally, and a simmering territorial dispute between Tokyo and Beijing over a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea.
During the roughly 30-minute talks, Mr Suga expressed concern over the situation in the East China Sea and issues that are of great interest to the international community including Hong Kong, and told Mr Xi that he wants to discuss them in the future, a Japanese official told a press briefing.
Tokyo has repeatedly protested Beijing’s sending of government ships and fishing boats near the Senkaku Islands, controlled by Japan but claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu.
Earlier this year, Beijing introduced a sweeping national security law in the semiautonomous territory, prompting Japan and other countries to express “grave concern” over an erosion of freedoms.
Mr Xi expressed his desire to advance bilateral relations, Mr Suga told reporters outside of his official residence, adding that they did not discuss plans for the Chinese president to visit Japan as a state guest.
The trip had been planned for spring this year but was postponed indefinitely due to the global coronavirus pandemic, and some ruling party lawmakers are now calling for it to be canceled altogether.
The Japanese government’s top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, said earlier in the day that the countries are currently “not at the stage of setting a date” for the visit.
Both affirmed their cooperation on North Korea, including Japan’s efforts to retrieve nationals who were abducted by Pyongyang’s agents in the 1970s and 1980s. They also agreed to work together on tackling the pandemic and to seek the resumption of business travel between the countries.