Japan and China are set to hold a foreign ministerial meeting in Indonesia next week, according to diplomatic sources. The meeting, taking place on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gatherings, aims to address bilateral tensions and promote stability in the region. Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi of Japan and his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang are expected to engage in discussions covering various topics, including Japan’s plan to release treated radioactive water into the sea from the Fukushima nuclear complex—a move that China strongly opposes.
Dialogue for Stabilizing Relations
Foreign Minister Hayashi plans to attend the regional foreign ministerial meetings in Jakarta from July 13 to 14, which include the ASEAN-plus-three talks involving Japan, China, and South Korea. The talks between Hayashi and Qin are crucial for Japan as it seeks to enhance dialogue and strengthen ties with China at multiple levels. The discussions come at a time of ongoing tensions over China’s assertiveness in military and economic matters, as well as its pressure on Taiwan.
Seeking Constructive and Stable Ties
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the signing of the 1978 bilateral Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China. In light of this milestone, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is eager to visit China for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The leaders of both countries agreed in November last year, during a summit in Bangkok, to pursue “constructive and stable” ties—an important step towards resolving their differences. This meeting will be a valuable opportunity to further advance diplomatic relations.
Diplomatic Engagement Amidst Challenges
Hayashi and Qin last met in early April, where Qin expressed his willingness to visit Japan. The two nations have faced challenges, including repeated incursions of Chinese vessels into waters near the Senkaku Islands, which are controlled by Japan but claimed by China. Additionally, China’s joint military activities with Russia near Japanese territory have raised concerns. Against this backdrop, Hayashi’s visit to China and the subsequent meeting with Qin hold significance in addressing these issues and maintaining regional stability.
Bilateral Talks and Multilateral Engagement
During his visit to Indonesia, Hayashi is also considering bilateral talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin. One likely topic of discussion with Park is the release of water from the Fukushima disaster site into the Pacific Ocean, as concerns persist among the South Korean public regarding the safety of marine products. In addition to bilateral discussions, Hayashi is scheduled to participate in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), a key security dialogue platform in the Indo-Pacific region. This multilateral forum involves members such as the United States, China, and Russia. It is noteworthy that North Korea engages with the ARF, although its foreign minister has been absent since 2019.
As tensions persist in the region, the upcoming foreign ministers meeting between Japan and China holds promise for constructive dialogue and potential resolutions. The engagement in Indonesia presents an opportunity to address bilateral concerns, enhance understanding, and foster stability in the Indo-Pacific.