Japan welcome to cooperate with China under initiative: Xi

By Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/17 0:13:39

Japan starts adjusting China policies after US quit TPP agreement

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday met with Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, a day after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan might join the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Nikai was in Beijing to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which was held on Sunday and Monday. The Kyodo News Agency said he delivered a letter from Abe to Xi.

Japan had previously shown reluctance to be involved in China's Belt and Road initiative, and only recently decided to send a delegation to the forum. Japan and the US are the only G7 members not to have signed up for the AIIB.

Analysts said Japan started adjusting its China policy since the US quit the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and the Trump administration began to reshape ties with China.

During Tuesday's meeting, Xi expressed hope that joint efforts will be made to ensure bilateral ties develop in the right direction.

Xi said Japan is welcome to discuss cooperation with China under the framework of the Belt and Road initiative. He said that, as two of the world's major economies, China and Japan have common interests in pushing forward globalization and trade liberalization.

Xi also noted that the Belt and Road initiative can be a new platform for the two countries to achieve mutual development.

On Sino-Japanese ties, Xi stressed that reflection should be done to detect the root of the problems that have prevented better bilateral ties, and to take measures to change the situation, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"Xi's meeting with Nikai sends a signal to Japan that China is open to improving ties with Japan, and that Japan should adjust its policies accordingly," Lian Degui, a professor from Shanghai International Studies University, said.

Sino-Japanese ties have soured in the past four years from territorial disputes over the Diaoyu Islands and the Abe administration's rightist policies, especially its attitude to Japan's wartime past. It deteriorated further after Japan meddled in the South China Sea island disputes as an outsider.

Nikai, the second highest-ranking official of Japan's ruling party, held a press conference in Beijing after his meeting with Xi.

Nikai said the meeting lasted about 17 minutes.

He added that compared to May 2015, when he led a large Japanese delegation to China, he feels Sino-Japanese relations are gradually improving.

Shifting attitude

"There have been signs of subtle changes in Japan's policy toward China," Lian said. "This comes in the midst of two main developments - an improvement in Sino-US ties after Xi's meeting with US President Donald Trump in April and changes in the international situation, especially the change in the attitude of Europe and the US toward the Belt and Road initiative," he told the Global Times.

Trump's decision to withdraw from the TPP and the Obama administration's "Pivot to Asia" strategy, as well as the US decision to send a delegation to the Belt and Road forum, have left Japan worried about being marginalized if it continues to keep its distance from the Belt and Road initiative and the AIIB, Lian said.

However, others have cautioned that Japan's shift of attitude would be limited.

Chen Yan, executive director of the Japanese Corporations (China) Research Institute, told the Global Times that the Abe administration's determination to compete with China in countries along Belt and Road routes would not change.

He noted that Abe needs to use the "China threat" theory as a tool to achieve domestic political goals.

The India Times reported Tuesday that Japan and India are embarking on joint infrastructure projects in Africa, Iran, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia in what was viewed as pushback against China's Belt and Road initiative.

Jin Canrong, associate dean of the Department of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that a breakthrough in Sino-Japanese relations remains difficult to achieve. 

"An indication of a thaw in ties would be an exchange of visits between the two heads of state. However, it is still premature for President Xi to meet Abe in bilateral visits," Jin said.

Newspaper headline: Japan welcome to cooperate with China under initiative

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