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Face to Face Three Years After Japan’s Leaders’ Departure Scholar: Japan is the executor of the “world under siege.”

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese leader Xi Jinping meet during the APEC meeting in Bangkok. (17 November 2022)
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese leader Xi Jinping meet during the APEC meeting in Bangkok. (17 November 2022)

On November 17, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Xi Jinping held a three-year-old Japan-China summit in Thailand, and the two sides reached an agreement on establishing stable relations through dialogue. Experts believe that Japan is the real executor of the “world under siege”, but both Japan and China want to avoid the deterioration of relations, so the two sides will exchange visits and exchanges to a certain extent.

Japan and China Want to Stabilize Relations However, Japan may not change if it follows the United States in resisting China

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Bangkok, Thailand, on the evening of November 17. This was the second face-to-face meeting between the heads of state of Japan and China after about three years, and the first face-to-face meeting between Kishida and Xi Jinping, which lasted about 45 minutes. The last time the two spoke was on October 8, 2021, shortly after Kishida became prime minister.

Japan’s Kyodo News reported on November 18 that Japan and China reached a consensus on jointly building constructive and stable bilateral relations and promoting summit and ministerial dialogue. Kishida expressed “grave concern” about the situation in the East China Sea, including the Senkaku Islands, known in China as the Diaoyu Islands, and China’s military activities such as ballistic missile launches.

On the other hand, Xi Jinping stressed that Taiwan and human rights issues are China’s internal affairs and do not accept interference from other countries.

Kishida opened by saying, “It is important for both sides to accelerate their efforts to establish a constructive and stable relationship. ”

Xi Jinping said: “The importance of China-Japan relations has not changed and will not change. China is willing to work with Japan to grasp the general direction of bilateral relations from a strategic height and build China-Japan relations that meet the requirements of the new era. ”

Whether Kishida and Xi Jinping, whose power base has been more consolidated since entering his third term, can push the stagnant Japan-China relationship forward has become the focus of international attention.

He Sishen, director of the Center for Japanese and East Asian Studies at Fu Jen University in Taiwan, believes that Japan-China relations have indeed continued to deteriorate in the past three years, and Japanese society is also very dissatisfied with the threat posed by China in the region.

He told the media: “Although Fumio Kishida seems to be very close to the United States under the entire US-China confrontation, in the entire Ukrainian-Russian conflict, he is also close to the United States.” On the issue of the Taiwan Strait, he seems to maintain the same tone as Abe in the past, and even like Suga Yoshihide in his time. But I think that the current Sino-Japanese relationship, of course, is a relatively cold state, but that is to say, they do not want to continue to deteriorate Sino-Japanese relations. Xie

Wensheng, an expert on Japan-China relations and executive director of Taiwan’s Oasis Cultural and Educational Foundation, said in an interview with the media that the background of the Japan-China summit is a series of international summits from November 11 to 17, the first half of which focuses on the US-Japan summit (Bye Meeting) between Biden and Kishida, the US-Japan-South Korea summit between the United States and Japan plus South Korean President Yoon Seok-Yue, and the Japan-South Korea summit between Kishida and Yoon Seok-Yue; The midfield is the culmination of the series of US-China summits (visits), as well as Xi Jinping’s series of summits with France, South Korea, Australia, and other countries; The second half concludes with Kishida and Xi Jinping’s Japan-China Summit (Kishi-Xi) as the epilogue of the series.

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Xie Wensheng pointed out that the first half of the shore meeting was set for the appearance of Xi Jinping at the midfield visit-Xi summit, and after Biden and Xi Jinping’s almost separate talks, you can understand that the situation of “the world is surrounded by the world” will continue; On the other hand, Xi Jinping is playing duplicitous tactics in the face of “the world is encircled”, and still maintains a confrontation posture of “fighting but not breaking” against the United States, but against Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, and Australia, he is trying to seek and create various opportunities to break by wooing and showing goodwill, but at least on the Japanese side, it is difficult to work.

Xie Wensheng said: “If you carefully observe Japan’s global diplomatic behavior in the past three years, in fact, Japan is the real executor of the strategy of ‘Tianxia Siege’, and its focus is the deepest, from the Suga Yoshihide regime to the Kishida Fumio regime.” This is a consistent extension of Shinzo Abe’s ’15-year system,’ which he delivered in 2015 in his 70-year postwar speech. So far, when facing China, Japan not only no longer admits its mistakes with the dance of Chinese nationalism, but actively pulls gangs around the world to face China.

China’s official coal Xinhua News Agency reported on November 18 that Xi Jinping said after the meeting: “The two economies are highly interdependent, and it is necessary to strengthen dialogue and cooperation in the digital economy, green development, finance and finance, medical and elderly care, and maintaining the stability and smoothness of the industrial chain and supply chain to achieve a higher level of complementary advantages and mutual benefit and win-win results.”

Xie Wensheng believes that China is trying to win over South Korea and Japan in semiconductors to counter US sanctions against China, but Japan’s basic strategic plan is the same front as the United States, and it is impossible to lean on China, even Japan’s tourism industry, which is very much looking forward to promoting economic recovery, even if Kishida asks China to relax strict new crown epidemic prevention measures, it cannot become an important bargaining chip in Japan-China talks.

He said: “China can give Japan the benefit of tourism. In 2019, Chinese tourists accounted for 1/3 of foreign tourists in Japan. But as long as China still adheres to the ‘zero policy’ on epidemic prevention, China’s weapon of tourism dividend is basically ineffective. When Prime Minister Fumio Kishida went to New York in September to announce the policy of opening up to tourists, it was clear that Japan did not actually regard Chinese tourists as a bargaining chip to look forward to. “

The East China Sea and Taiwan Strait issues remain unresolved

Nikkei Asia reported on November 18 that Kishida expressed “serious concern” about Xi Jinping during the talks about the situation in the East China Sea, including the Senkaku Islands, known in China as the Diaoyu Islands, and China’s military activities such as ballistic missile launches.

In addition, the Japanese Foreign Ministry announced later that Kishida called on Xi Jinping to take responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security during the talks, and also expressed concern about Russia’s threat to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine.

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During the East Asia Summit (EAS) in Cambodia on November 13, Kishida publicly stated that China’s violations of Japan’s sovereignty in the East China Sea are continuing and intensifying.

Hsieh Wensheng, executive director of Taiwan’s Oasis Cultural and Educational Foundation, believes that Kishida’s raising of these sensitive issues to Xi Jinping is to tell China that it must re-view Japan-China relations.

“For Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, for Japan to be a leader internationally, he must ‘manage’ the Japan-China relationship, just as Biden’s meeting with Xi Jinping did with him, he is also ‘managing’ risks,” he said. That’s why, at the Southeast Asia Summit in Cambodia, we saw that even though China was in attendance with Li Keqiang, the number two person, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida chose to publicly criticize China for violating Japan’s sovereignty. ”

Hideshi Tokuchi, a former deliberator at Japan’s Defense Ministry and chairman of the Institute of Peace and Security, believes that Kishida’s most important task this time is to convey to Xi Jinping Japan’s position on sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands (Senkaku Islands).

He told the media: “This month alone, Chinese ships have intruded into the waters around the Senkaku Islands for the second time, crossing the line, and have recently become more and more frequent. I believe that the most important thing for Kishida this time is to convey to the Chinese side that Japan is determined to firmly protect Japan’s territory and not tolerate any violation of Japan’s sovereignty. Japan’s position on the Senkaku Islands is clear, the Senkaku Islands are historically Japan’s inherent territory, and international law is also very clear, in fact, Japan also dominates the Senkaku Islands, and there is no so-called territorial issue that needs to be resolved. China

Central Television reported on November 18 that regarding Kishida’s emphasis on the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait during the talks, Xi Jinping said that he would not accept interference in China’s internal affairs, and believed that on the issue of maritime and territorial disputes, it is necessary to abide by the principled consensus reached and show political wisdom and responsibility to properly manage differences.

Deji Hideshi believes that the views of Japan and China on the Taiwan Strait issue are too different, and China’s attitude has always been very tough, and I am afraid that it will not be able to ease the situation through dialogue.

He said: “On the Taiwan Strait issue, Japan’s position is that it hopes that Taiwan and China will peacefully resolve the issue around the Taiwan Strait through dialogue, that is, Japan does not accept the use of force to change the status quo.” On the other hand, China does not deny the possibility of using force against Taiwan and has always stressed that this is an internal matter of China. Therefore, I believe that the differences between Japan and China on the Taiwan Strait issue are really difficult to eliminate. ”

Even so, neither side wants an accidental conflict in the East China Sea or the Taiwan Strait that could lead to a bigger war, and will continue to stabilize Japan-China relations through dialogue, Hideshi said.

Limited Exchange of Visits by Senior Officials It may be difficult to visit Japan

Kyodo News reported on November 18 that during the talks, Kishida Fumio and Xi Jinping agreed to coordinate Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi’s visit to China, and will restart the ministerial-level “Japan-China High-level Economic Dialogue” and the “Japan-China High-level People-to-People Exchange and Consultation Mechanism” as soon as possible.

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Former Japanese Defense Ministry deliberator Hideji Tokuji said that both Japan and China have various internal issues to deal with, so both sides will continue to work hard to stabilize foreign relations to avoid uncontrollable situations between the two countries. Of course, it is possible that high-ranking officials will gradually resume exchanges, but Japan and the international community are very concerned about China’s behavior that poses a regional threat, and China has no tendency to dispel international doubts, so it is impossible for Japan to change its calm and decisive stance, and Japan-China relations cannot be significantly improved by any dialogue or consultation mechanism.

He said: “Under the premise of the confrontation between the United States and China, Japan is an ally of the United States, and under this framework, it may be difficult for Japan-China relations to improve significantly.” Coupled with the decisive differences between Japan and China on the Senkaku Islands and Taiwan issues, Japan’s current China policy is to ‘say whatever China should say,’ demanding that China ‘shoulder its due responsibilities,’ and only hoping to stabilize Japan-China relations. ”

In terms of security exchanges, China did not participate in Japan’s November 6 review ceremony for the international maritime fleet after 20 years, but China did participate in the Western Pacific Naval Seminar held in Japan from June 13 to 16, and the two sides are expected to remain cautious about the “security dialogue”.

Xie Wensheng, an expert on Japan-China relations, believes that Biden and Kishida have a very good tacit understanding, and the current pace of the United States and Japan towards China is relatively consistent in action, so whether there can be further mutual visits between Japan and China may not have a clearer follow-up development until after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China early next year mentioned in the November 15 meeting.

He said that while arranging the shore meeting between Japan and China, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou specially held a press conference on November 9 to mention the Japan-China summit meeting, in addition to asking Japan not to dance with the United States, but also hinted that Japan should review the timing of Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan.

“China expects Xi Jinping to visit Japan, but until China does not provide enough goodwill, such as at least evacuating the coast guard ship near the Senkaku Islands, or getting Kim Jong-un to stop launching missiles or conducting nuclear weapons tests, Xi Jinping’s desire to visit Japan is like a mirage in the current atmosphere in Japan; Otherwise, even the shore Xi meeting would not have been held in a third country, and it was held in a dizzying series of various talks of heads of state. ”

Xie Wensheng, an expert on Japan-China relations, believes that Japan is the real executor of the grand strategy of “encircling China under the world”, Kishida wants to manage Japan-China relations, and if China does not release enough goodwill, Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan is unlikely. Japanese defense expert Hideji Tokuji said that under the general framework of the US-China confrontation and the excessive differences between Japan and China on the East China Sea and Taiwan Strait issues, it is difficult to significantly improve relations. 

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