Abe: China’s island dispute moves ‘wrong’
Abe: China’s island dispute moves ‘wrong’
Abe, who took office just over two weeks ago, had much warmer words for South Korea, despite strained ties with Seoul over a separate territorial spat and other issues. Abe said he hoped to establish a trusting relationship with President-elect Park Geun-hye as soon as possible.
“Both nations share liberal and democratic values, and have respect for basic human rights and the rule of law,” Abe said.
He spoke as US officials prepared to visit Japan and South Korea to ensure the key American allies are committed to mending their relationship.
Abe, who has declared economic growth to be his top priority, made the comments at a news conference at which he announced more than 20 trillion yen ($224 billion) in new stimulus to jumpstart Japan’s anemic economy.
The aim is to boost growth by 2 percent and create 600,000 jobs, he said. Tensions with China — Japan’s top trading partner — are likely to complicate that task.
A decision by the Japanese government to buy a group of tiny islands in the East China Sea from their private Japanese owners in September set off protests in China that damaged Japanese-owned factories and stores around the country.
Boycotts of Japanese products in China have hurt Japan’s exporters and added to uncertainties over their extensive investments in mainland China. Toyota and Nissan have seen vehicle sales in China drop sharply in recent months.
Asked how he could maintain his staunch stance on the East China Sea islands, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, while protecting Japan’s substantial business interests in China, Abe blamed Beijing for any deterioration in business ties.
“It was wrong for China, as a country responsible to the international community, to achieve a political goal by allowing damage to Japanese-affiliated companies and Japanese nationals that have made contributions to Chinese economy,” Abe said. “I want to clearly state that.”
Abe warned that such an approach would not only hurt bilateral ties but also negatively affect China’s own economy.
“A relationship based on common strategic interests requires mutual respect,” he said, referring to China. “It is that kind of relationship based on common strategic interests that I want to restore.”
China’s Foreign Ministry rejected Abe’s characterization of last year’s violence and the dispute over the islands, saying tensions were solely Japan’s fault. Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the islands belong to China, and thus over-flights by Chinese airplanes amounted to normal patrols.
“The current severe difficulties in Japan-China relations are completely of the Japanese side’s making. We ask the Japanese side to face reality and to show sincerity so as to make concrete efforts to resolve the relevant issues properly,” Hong said at a daily media briefing in Beijing.
Abe’s stimulus package includes plans to raise military spending for the first time in a decade — an increase partly aimed at beefing up monitoring and defenses around the disputed islands. Chinese vessels have frequently ventured into areas near the islands.
The top US diplomat for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, said Thursday the US will urge “care and caution” in the East China Sea dispute.
Senior officials from the State Department, the Pentagon and the White House will travel to South Korea and Japan next week. Bumpy relations between the two US allies are a source of concern for the US as it makes a “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific, shifting diplomatic and military attention from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In June, a planned intelligence-sharing pact between Japan and South Korea was derailed. Then in August, a visit by South Korea’s outgoing President Lee Myung-bak to small islands claimed by both nations led to angry exchanges between Tokyo and Seoul.
Perceptions in Seoul that Abe wants to minimize or whitewash Japan’s wartime past also threaten to undermine the relationship. Abe has suggested that Japan’s landmark 1993 apology for the suffering of World War II sex slaves, many of them Korean women, needs revising.
Campbell said the visit by US officials was to ensure both governments are committed to “rebuilding” their ties.
Signaling Tokyo’s determination to expand its trade and investment with other Asia-Pacific nations, Abe dispatched his foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, on visits to the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei and Australia this week.
Abe himself will be making his first trip abroad next week to Southeast Asia, with plans to visit Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand to strengthen ties already growing as Japanese manufacturers boost investments and marketing in the region.
“These three countries are engines for growth of the world economy,” chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters Thursday. He deflected suggestions that Tokyo was seeking to counterbalance China.
“I don’t view respecting relations with the rest of Asia as a countermeasure against China,” he said.
Korean summit starts with a handshake, after year of tension
- Their hands still clasped, Moon invited the North Korean leader into the South for the first time ever
- North and South Korean officials conducted three days of on-site rehearsals to map out virtually every move of the leaders’ initial encounter
GOYANG, South Korea: After a year of tensions, the first North-South Korea summit in more than a decade began Friday with a handshake.
Surrounded by bodyguards and other members of his delegation, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un emerged right on cue from a large building on the northern side of the border in the truce village of Panmunjom, walked down a wide flight of stairs and strolled confidently toward South Korean President Moon Jae-in to begin the historic meeting.
Smiling broadly and exchanging greetings, the two shook hands for a long time, exchanging greetings and looking from outward appearances like old friends.
Moon had awaited Kim’s arrival at “Freedom House,” a building on the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone. As soon as he saw Kim come out, he walked to meet him at the border so that their handshake would be at the most symbolic of locations, each leader standing on his side of the military demarcation line that separates North from South.
Their hands still clasped, Moon invited the North Korean leader into the South for the first time ever, just one step over a line marked by an ankle-high strip of concrete.
After he did, Kim, in return, gestured for Moon to step into the North. They both did, and then returned to the South together, hands held.
Kim was then met by South Korean children bearing flowers and a military honor guard before he headed into the summit hall to sign a guestbook, visibly out of breath.
Like everything about Friday’s summit, the handshake and all the atmospherics around it were carefully orchestrated and agreed upon in advance. North and South Korean officials conducted three days of on-site rehearsals to map out virtually every move of the leaders’ initial encounter.
Even so, the moment was a striking contrast to the rising fears of conflict that dominated relations just one year ago, when Kim was test-launching long-range missiles at a record pace and trading crude insults with US President Donald Trump.
It was the second big North-South handshake in as many months — coming after Moon and Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, who accompanied him on Friday, shook hands at the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the South in February.
That seemingly impromptu moment came as a joint North-South team marched into the Olympic Stadium, part of an effort to use the Games to try to improve relations.
Moon, elated at the sight, turned and shook the hand of Kim’s sister, who was seated right behind him in the VIP box on the first trip to the South ever by a member of the North’s ruling family. The image of the two beaming with pride stood out all the more because US Vice President Mike Pence, representing the White House, sat stone-faced nearby.
Photos of that handshake were top news the next day in both Koreas.
The Koreas have a host of difficult and often seemingly intractable obstacles ahead of them, but no matter the outcome of the summit, they seemed acutely aware that the photos of Kim and Moon’s handshake will be bound for the history books.