Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Donald Trump's unconventional diplomacy is pushing China and Japan closer together

China and Japan pledge to boost economic cooperation China is Japan's main trading partner with bilateral trade reaching $300bn last year
Leonard Rios | 28 October, 2018, 14:51

China and Japan, arch rivals in Asia, on Friday warmed up to each other as both countries stuck a slew of deals and pledged to improve their ties as the United States cranks up pressure on them for trade concessions.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also agreed the two countries would work together to achieve denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula.

"I believe we need to take to a new level a free and fair trade system", Abe said after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. For Tokyo, these bilateral talks showcase Japan's commitment to diplomacy, deepen economic engagement with China, and build multilateral trade by accelerating both the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (an alternative to TPP) and trilateral negotiations between for a South Korea, Japan, and China free-trade agreement.

The bilateral summit comes a week after India signed an unprecedented security cooperation pact with China.

Relations between Asia's two biggest economies have improved in recent years after they sunk to new lows in 2012, when Tokyo "nationalized" disputed islands claimed by Taiwan and China.

Before heading to Beijing, Abe said he would also discuss North Korea and territorial frictions - calling to make "the East China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation".

While Abe is attempting to focus attention at home on his diplomatic achievements in the summit to buoy his administration, China is attempting to get Japan on-side as Beijing contends with a trade war with the United States.

"The hard issues are going to stay", said Akio Takahara, a professor at the University of Tokyo, adding that he expected relations to remain cordial at least until Xi visits Japan, which he is expected to do for the Group of 20 summit in Osaka next year.

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These steps, while paving the way for joint development projects, appear to fall short of a full embrace of Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature Belt and Road Initiative.

Abe said he hopes to use his visit as an opportunity to boost ties between the two countries and enter a new phase of relations - moving from competition to cooperation.

Also Friday, the central banks of the two countries signed a three-year, bilateral currency swap agreement enabling the two sides to swap up to 200 billion yuan (about $28.8 billion) for 3.4 trillion yen.

"China and Japan are neighbours and partners, and we will not be a threat to each other", he said. "With concerted efforts by both sides, China-Japan ties are back on track and gaining positive momentum".

"If Xi promises to come to Japan next year, that would be very big", said Mr Kiyoyuki Seguchi, research director at the Canon Institute for Global Studies in Tokyo.

"China and Japan should interact more actively in the security area, foster constructive security relations, and pursue the path of peace and development for regional peace and stability", Xi said.

Abe realises that Japan's future economic prosperity requires increased trade with China, now Japan's largest trading partner.

Some other users urged caution during Abe's visit, accusing an "ambitious" Japan of being a two-faced neighbor. On the basis of relations of trust with President Vladimir Putin we will solve the territorial issue and conclude a peace Treaty with Russian Federation.

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