- The call was proposed by the Japanese side and the Chinese side agreed to hold it.
- The leaders of the two countries agreed to "closely cooperate" on bilateral and international issues.
- Xi Jinping's plan to pay a state visit to Japan this spring has become an important symbol of the return of bilateral relations.
Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga spoke for the first time with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday. The leaders of the two countries agreed to “closely cooperate” on bilateral and international issues but did not discuss Xi Jinping’s plan for a state visit to Japan.
Analysts pointed out that when the competition between China and the United States is becoming increasingly fierce, this call can show the direction and tone of the China-Japanese relations during Suga’s tenure.
Japan’s Kyodo News quoted a relevant person in the Japanese government as saying that the call was proposed by the Japanese side and the Chinese side agreed to hold it.
Yoshihide Suga told Japanese reporters after the meeting that Xi Jinping expressed his desire to improve relations between the two countries during the meeting.
Xi Jinping’s plan to pay a state visit to Japan this spring has become an important symbol of the return of bilateral relations on track. However, due to the new coronavirus epidemic, this trip has been shelved until now.
However, Yoshihide Suga revealed that he and Xi Jinping did not discuss Xi’s state visit plan during the conference call.
Previously, the then Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi had stated that Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan is expected to take place after November. However, the sudden resignation of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in August has made Xi Jinping’s plan to visit Japan more variable.
This visit is not only related to China-Japanese relations, but also an opportunity for the Chinese authorities to break through the diplomatic dilemma. Since the beginning of this year, with the global spread of the new coronavirus epidemic, the international community has heard endless questions and accusations about the Chinese government’s ineffective response to the epidemic.
The implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law and the human rights issue of Uyghurs in Xinjiang have also plunged the CCP into a diplomatic mire.
In Japan, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has increasingly opposed Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan. Since Hong Kong’s “National Security Law” was launched this year, there have been many voices among Japanese conservatives calling for the cancellation of Xi Jinping’s visit. I
n July this year, the Liberal Democratic Party’s Diplomatic Group and the Diplomatic Investigation Committee drafted a resolution at a high-level meeting to request cancellation of Xi Jinping’s invitation to visit Japan.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China stated in March this year that China and Japan agreed that Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan must be realized and achieved a complete success under the most appropriate time, environment and atmosphere.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian also expressed the hope that Japan will create a favorable environment and atmosphere for the stable development of relations between the two countries.
Seeking a Balance Between China and the United States
For Suga Yoshihide, how to continue to maintain a balance between China and the United States diplomatically is his main issue when handling relations with China.
Before Xi Jinping, Yoshihide Suga had already spoken with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, US President Trump, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
During the telephone meeting with Trump, the two sides reiterated the importance of the US-Japan alliance. Yoshihide Suga later told reporters that he told Trump that “the US-Japan alliance is the foundation of regional peace and stability” and the two sides agreed to cooperate closely.
The two allegedly also discussed China-related topics but did not disclose specific details.
The South Korean media Yonhap News Agency reported that some South Korean analysts believe that Yoshihide Suga puts the South Korean president before the Chinese leader for communication is a signal worthy of attention.
However, the report also pointed out that there are also voices who believe that it is difficult to equate the sequence of calls with the strategic sequence of Japanese diplomacy, judging from the actions of Yoshihide Suga talking with the Australian Prime Minister before Trump.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu said at a press conference earlier on Friday that for Japan, China-Japanese relations are “one of the most important bilateral relations.”