Nov 17 (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said they would continue to forge mutually beneficial relations in their first direct talks in a year, focusing on common economic interests amid a series of diplomatic disputes. .
The leaders of Asia’s two largest economies discussed thorny issues such as China’s ban on Japanese seafood and the high-profile case of a Japanese businessman detained in China during hour-long talks at an upscale San Francisco hotel on Thursday evening.
But they also pledged to hold high-level dialogues on economic issues and welcomed the launch of a new framework for discussing export controls during their meeting on the sidelines of the APEC regional summit.
The two countries should “focus on common interests” and reaffirm their “mutually beneficial strategic relationship and give it new meaning,” Xi told Kishida as they sat across from each other at a long table flanked by their delegations.
In a joint statement issued in 2008, Japan and China agreed to pursue a “mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests” aimed at ensuring frequent leadership exchanges on issues such as security and economic cooperation.
But the phrase has become less used in recent years, as the two historical rivals have clashed over a series of issues such as territorial claims, trade tensions and Taiwan, the democratic island that Beijing claims as its own.
More recently, relations between the two countries have been tested by China’s ban on Japanese seafood following Tokyo’s decision to begin releasing treated water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea earlier this year.
In comments to the media after the talks, Kishida said he strongly urged Xi to drop the ban and also sought the speedy release of the detained executive, a saga that dealt a major blow to their close business ties.
Xi said Japan should take its concerns about water drainage in Fukushima seriously, and the two sides agreed to try to resolve the issue through consultations, according to readouts of the talks. The Chinese reading did not mention the case of the Astellas Pharma (4503.T) CEO who was formally arrested last month on suspicion of espionage.
The meeting of Kishida and Xi came on the heels of a long-awaited summit between US President Joe Biden and Xi, where the two superpowers agreed to open a presidential hotline and resume military communications between the two militaries, among other things.
Kishida also met with Biden at the summit where they discussed issues including the “common challenges” they share with China.
China’s push to reaffirm ties with Japan may be driven in part by Tokyo’s close ties with arch-rival Washington, said Rumi Aoyama, an expert on Japan-China relations.
“I think there is a desire to drive a wedge between Japan and the United States by establishing the so-called strategic relationship with Japan amid the US-China confrontation,” said Aoyama, director of the Waseda Institute for Contemporary Chinese Studies.
On the sidelines of the APEC Summit, Kishida also met with South Korean President Yeon Suk-yeol in their seventh meeting this year. The two leaders promised to push for deeper cooperation and discussed shared concerns such as North Korea’s missile tests.
Yoon, Kishida and Biden also held a brief trilateral meeting on Thursday.
Leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum are in San Francisco for the 30th summit from November 15 to 17.
(Reporting by Mariko Katsumura, Jun Gedi, Kaori Kaneko and Sakura Murakami in Tokyo and Ethan Wang in Beijing – Prepared by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin) Writing by Jun Gedi. Edited by Stephen Coates and Raju Gopalakrishnan
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