Attending B&R forum a chance to mend China-Japan ties

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/25 23:53:43

Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said Tuesday that he will attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation from May 14 to 15 in Beijing, according to media reports.

As a figure second only to Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the LDP as well as a well-known pro-China politician, his visit mirrors Tokyo's intention to mend its ties with Beijing. It may also turn out to be a critical turning point toward a thaw in relations between China and Japan.

Ever since the One Belt and One Road initiative was raised, Tokyo has been anxious over Beijing's increasing influence across Eurasia and the possibility of losing market opportunities. It also worries that China, deemed by Japan as a strategic competitor, will develop into the most influential force in the region.

Japan opted to make no secret of its uneasiness toward China by refusing to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and unveiling a $110 billion plan for infrastructure projects in Asia in a bid to counter the Belt and Road initiative. It has also proactively participated in the US-led rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy and hyped up the China threat theory.

However, the Belt and Road initiative highlights that jointly establishing an open, inclusive and balanced regional cooperation architecture will benefit all.

That being said, it is more about improved connectivity. Therefore, the initiative is not a plan that only goes toward the West, and China has always welcomed nations which are not on the exact routes. Japan and South Korea are thus never excluded from it.

The total GDP of China, South Korea and Japan accounts for 90 percent of that of Northeast Asia. Yet their trade volume with each other is far from satisfactory due to their historical disputes and political distrust. It has been over 10 years since the China-Japan-South Korea Free Trade Agreement was proposed for the first time, but no substantial progress has yet been made. It is unfortunate to witness the region gradually losing its cooperative atmosphere because of all the controversies and antagonism.

Such a geopolitical point should not be made at the expense of the development of all three. Japan might have woken up to the fact by sending a heavyweight to China. Beijing is also looking forward to seeing Seoul's participation.

China has never intended to suppress Japan's development. It is also impossible for Japan to counter China's growth through calculated ruses. For whichever side, cooperation is the only right choice.

Posted in: OBSERVER

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