TOKYO (AP) – The foreign ministers of Japan and China agreed on Tuesday to work together to fight the coronavirus and revitalize their epidemic-stricken economy while trying to avoid measures that could provoke tensions in the disputed islands of the East China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, who arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday, also agreed to continue business trips between the world’s 2nd and 3rd economies through a “business career” program that allows visitors to have limited activities during the 14-day quarantine period. Japan has recently launched such agreements with Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.
The two countries will have to resume business travel by the end of this month, despite Japan currently struggling with a resurgence of coronavirus infections while the government struggles to strike a balance between disease prevention and economic health.
“I hope the agreement will help boost the economy between Japan and China and promote mutual understanding,” Motegi said. According to him, stable Japan-China relations are crucial not only for the two countries, but also for the region.
Chinese citizens have outpaced the number of pre-epidemic foreign visitors to Japan.
Relations between the two countries have been strained due to territorial disputes and war history. But relations have improved in recent years as the trade dispute between China and the United States has intensified. Japan, one of the most important allies of the United States, sees China as a key trading partner and faces the challenge of balancing both nations.
On Tuesday, Japan and China agreed to work together on climate change, energy conservation, health and digital commerce as part of their economic cooperation. They agreed to support a rules-based multinational trading system, Wang said.
Motegi and Wang also discussed their disputes over the Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea, which Japan calls Senkaku and China Diaoyu, and agreed to try not to escalate tensions. The two sides will set up a hotline between their soldiers by the end of December to “improve communication and security,” Wang said.
“China hopes that through the joint efforts of both parties, we can turn the East China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation. It serves the fundamental and long-term interests of both people, ”Wang said.
Nevertheless, they insisted on their rival territorial needs. Motegi said he reiterated Japan’s position and (starred) urged China to take steps forward. “Wang defended China’s Coast Guard patrols in the area.” We have a clear position in this regard. We will certainly continue to maintain our sovereignty. ,” he said.
Wang will meet with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday, the first meeting since the visit of Chinese Foreign Policy Chief Yang Jiechi in February with a Japanese leader to be held by a senior Chinese official.
Wang’s visit comes amid growing concerns about China’s growing influence in the region.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke with Suga last week and agreed to step up their military partnership to promote peace and stability in the Indian-Pacific region in the face of China’s rise.
Japan and Australia, along with the United States and India, are trying to involve Southeast Asian nations and others to join their cooperation. Beijing criticized the steps.
Japan and China say they are not currently considering rescheduling Chinese President Xin Qing’s state visit to Japan, which was postponed in the spring due to the pandemic. Motegi and Wang did not mention Xi’s visit during their joint press conference.
After his visit to Japan, Wang will set off for meetings in South Korea.
AP video journalist Liu Zheng in Beijing contributed to this report.
Follow Mari Yamaguchi on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi