China and Japan made efforts to move their bilateral relationship forward on Sunday, when the countries’ foreign ministers met in Tokyo, in itself a major development ahead of the trilateral summit with South Korea to be held in May.
It was the first visit to Japan by China’s top diplomat in almost a decade, according to a report from The Asahi Shimbun, and Premier Li Keqiang’s trip for the summit in May will be a similarly rare event. The talks on Sunday stopped short of setting a date for Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Japan.
State Councilor Wang Yi, was reportedly uninterested in helping Japan bring up the issue of North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens, one diplomatic source told Asahi. China’s efforts, the person said, were focused on getting Japan on board with engaging North Korea diplomatically.
“The world is moving toward dialogue with North Korea,” the source said. “Now is the time for Japan to go along with that trend.”
One Chinese scholar noted Beijing’s uncertainty regarding Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s motivation to improve ties with China.
“Abe has not spoken in detail about where he wants to take relations with China,” the source was quoted as saying. “Comparing the more aggressive manner in which he is trying to resolve historical issues with Russia, such as the Northern Territories dispute, it is obvious that he is not as serious about relations with China.”