China, Japan vow new start­ing point

‘Abe may quit in June’

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

TOKYO, April 16, (Agen­cies): Asian ri­vals China and Japan on Mon­day pledged a “new start­ing point” for bi­lat­eral ties, vow­ing close co-oper­a­tion amid a flurry of diplo­macy on the North Korean mis­sile threat and global trade ten­sions.

Wel­com­ing Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi for a rare three-day visit, Ja­panese Premier Shinzo Abe called for warmer re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries and said they should work to­gether on North Korea.

Abe said he would be vis­it­ing the United States for talks with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to seek the “com­plete and ir­re­versible de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion” of North Korea and added “we want to co-op­er­ate with China.”

“We hope to de­velop a strate­gic, mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial Japan-China re­la­tion­ship in var­i­ous fields,” said Abe.

Af­ter meet­ing Abe, Wang told re­porters that Bei­jing wanted to place “Sino-Ja­panese co­op­er­a­tion at a new start­ing point” and co­op­er­ate on en­ergy, fi­nan­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

Tokyo is bat­tling to stay rel­e­vant amid a string of sum­mits on North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gramme in which Bei­jing is likely to be a ma­jor player.

With this in mind, Japan is push­ing to host a tri­lat­eral meet­ing be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, Chi­nese Premier Li Ke­qiang and South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in.

Abe said this would be held “af­ter Golden Week”, a se­ries of na­tional hol­i­days that ends on May 6.

Bi­lat­eral vis­its by Abe and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping are also be­ing planned.

China demon­strated its sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence over its reclu­sive ally when Xi hosted the North’s leader Kim Jong-un and his wife in Bei­jing last month.

With Moon and Trump also pre­par­ing to meet Kim, re­ported ef­forts by Japan to reach out to Py­ongyang have gone ig­nored. Wang said he and Abe spoke about North Korea. “At present, the nu­clear is­sue on the penin­sula has clearly eased from a sit­u­a­tion of a crip­pling cri­sis and has re­turned to the di­rec­tion of de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion,” Wang said, re­it­er­at­ing Bei­jing’s call for a po­lit­i­cal and peace­ful set­tle­ment.

Mean­while, Japan and China are tar­gets of Trump’s steel and alu­minium tar­iffs, with Bei­jing also tar­geted with a fur­ther heavy levy.

Abe

Trump could link se­cu­rity with trade:

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe could find his oft-touted close ties with Don­ald Trump sorely tested at a sum­mit this week in which Tokyo fears the US leader will to try to link vi­tal se­cu­rity mat­ters with touchy trade top­ics.

It is a fraught time for both sides, and comes as Trump pre­pares to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whose gov­ern­ment has been openly an­tag­o­nis­tic to­ward Japan.

Abe is strug­gling with de­clin­ing pop­u­lar­ity be­cause of sus­pected crony­ism scan­dals. Trump, whose White House is grap­pling with scan­dals and in­ves­ti­ga­tions of its own, may be hunt­ing for a po­lit­i­cal win ahead of Novem­ber midterm con­gres­sional elec­tions.

Japan wants Trump to avoid a deal in which Py­ongyang gives up bal­lis­tic mis­siles that can hit the US main­land but keeps shorter-range mis­siles that threaten Japan. Abe also wants Trump to bring up Ja­panese cit­i­zens kid­napped by Py­ongyang long ago.

At the sum­mit with Trump on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, Tokyo is equally ea­ger to avoid be­ing pushed into talks on a two-way free trade agree­ment aimed not only at mar­ket ac­cess but at mon­e­tary and cur­rency poli­cies.

“If Abe brings up ab­duc­tions and short and midrange mis­siles, it’s ob­vi­ous that Trump will say, ‘OK, do some­thing on the eco­nomic side,’” said a Ja­panese rul­ing party law­maker well-versed in US-Japan ties, who de­clined to be iden­ti­fied be­cause the topic and tim­ing are sen­si­tive.

Trump’s abil­ity to give al­lies pol­icy whiplash was on dis­play last week when he said he’d asked aides to re-open talks on the multi­na­tional Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) that he aban­doned last year. Af­ter­ward, he tweeted that the United States would only re­join if of­fered “sub­stan­tially bet­ter” terms and urged a bi­lat­eral deal with Japan, which “has hit us hard on trade for years!”

Abe may quit in June:

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, plagued by sus­pected crony­ism scan­dals and cover-ups and with his rat­ings slid­ing, will likely step down in June, for­mer leader Ju­nichiro Koizumi was quoted on Mon­day as telling a weekly mag­a­zine.

A sur­vey by broad­caster Nip­pon TV re­leased on Sun­day showed Abe’s sup­port had sunk to 26.7 per­cent, the low­est since the con­ser­va­tive law­maker took of­fice in De­cem­ber 2012. An Asahi news­pa­per poll pub­lished on Mon­day put his rat­ing at 31 per­cent.

Abe’s slid­ing rat­ings raise doubts over whether he can win a third three-year term as rul­ing Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party (LDP) leader in a Septem­ber vote, that he needs to win to stay in of­fice, or whether he might even re­sign be­fore the party vote.

Spec­u­la­tion has also emerged that Abe could call a snap gen­eral elec­tion as he did last Oc­to­ber, when his rat­ings were in a sim­i­lar slump.

The prime min­is­ter has re­peat­edly de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

The lat­est signs of trouble for Abe come ahead of his sum­mit this week with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, where the dif­fi­cult top­ics of North Korea’s nu­clear and mis­sile threats and touchy trade mat­ters will be on the agenda.

“The sit­u­a­tion is get­ting dan­ger­ous. Won’t Mr Abe re­sign around the time par­lia­ment’s ses­sion ends (on June 20)?” weekly mag­a­zine Aera’s on­line site quoted Koizumi as say­ing in an in­ter­view.

Koizumi — a critic of Abe’s sup­port for nu­clear power af­ter the 2011 Fukushima cri­sis — said that if Abe hangs on, it could hurt LDP can­di­dates in an up­per house elec­tion next sum­mer.

Crowds of pro­tes­tors demon­strated near par­lia­ment on Satur­day, hold­ing signs say­ing “Abe is Over” and chant­ing “Abe quit!” Or­gan­is­ers said 50,000 had par­tic­i­pated by the time the demon­stra­tion ended.

Abe last week de­nied again that he had in­ter­vened to en­sure pref­er­en­tial treat­ment for ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion Kake Gakuen, run by his friend Ko­taro Kake, to set up a vet­eri­nary school.

He has also re­peat­edly de­nied that he or his wife in­ter­vened in a heav­ily dis­counted sale of state-owned land to an­other school op­er­a­tor, Morit­omo Gakuen, with ties to his wife.

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