Akitaka Saiki, Japan’s Vice Foreign Minister, is set to visit China on Monday and Tuesday apparently for talks with senior Chinese government officials. This is the latest in a number of efforts by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to obviously improve bilateral relations between the two countries, currently strained by a long-running territorial spat. Abe, whose ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) all but strengthened its grip on government control after the Upper House elections last week, has been making public overtures of his desire for dialogue, even as Japan had earlier raised its “threat” assessment of China’s military buildup and maritime assertiveness.
“Vice Minister Saiki will visit China on July 29-30 and exchange views with Chinese officials,” a Japanese foreign ministry spokesman had said without giving specific details as to the agenda of the meetings. On Friday last week, Abe had publicly called for an unconditional meeting between Japanese and Chinese leaders, a proposal he again voiced out on Monday. Reports have surfaced that Abe had instructed Japan’s diplomats to work towards the goal of bringing both countries to the negotiating table. Also on Sunday, Isao Iijima – one of Abe’s top advisers – told reporters that it is possible that Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping could soon sit down for a meeting, although Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that as yet, no schedule had been marked down for that. “As Prime Minister Abe has repeatedly said, he wants a mutually beneficial, strategic relationship and the door is always open for dialogue,” Suga told reporters on Monday. “However, there is no immediate schedule for a leadership summit,” he added.
China’s Foreign Ministry had responded to Abe’s public declarations on Friday by saying that “its door was always open” for talks, also adding their repeated stance that the problem lay in Japan’s attitude. Japan should “stop using empty slogans about so-called dialogue to gloss over disagreements”, the ministry said in a statement. China has been vocal about its growing concern for Abe’s government taking a very nationalistic path, often seen in its desires to be less apologetic about its wartime past. Ties between the two countries have already been seriously strained since September over the sovereignty of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
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