Japan, China talks end with friendship vows but no breakthrough

Japanese Foreign Ministe r Taro Kono talks to Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi during their meeting at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 28 January 2018
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Japan, China talks end with friendship vows but no breakthrough

BEIJING: Japan’s foreign minister met China’s top leadership Sunday for rare diplomatic talks that ended with mutual vows to improve their chilly ties but little in the way of concrete proposals.
The world’s second and third largest economies have a fraught relationship, held back by longstanding disputes over maritime claims and Japan’s wartime legacy.
Taro Kono’s visit to China was the first by a Japanese foreign minister in nearly two years and comes as Tokyo pushes for a visit from Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Japan’s top envoy met with his counterpart Wang Yi, top diplomat Yang Jiechi and Premier Li Keqiang.
But on a range of issues — from developing a military hotline, to easing tensions around disputed islands in the East China Sea and to a state visit — Kono came away with little more than vague promises.
In statements and remarks after the talks both Japan and China said they would move toward setting up a military hotline to avoid clashes in the East China Sea and would aim to hold trilateral talks with South Korea.
Japan and South Korea, rattled by North Korea’s repeated missile tests, are keen to enlist support from Beijing in halting Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
“The North Korea issue is now an urgent issue for the whole of international society,” Kono said ahead of talks as he praised progress made in the relationship between the two neighbors.
A statement from China’s foreign ministry listed a handful of modest accomplishments from the talks, including an agreement to avoid double pension payments for those working in each other’s countries.
Both sides also pledged to sign an agreement “as soon as possible” to establish a military hotline to help prevent incidents in the East China Sea.
Frequent maritime patrols by both countries around disputed islets have long been a potential flashpoint and a major impediment to improved relations.
But Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Norio Maruyama conceded that the two countries had yet to agree on a timeline for implementing the concept, which has been under discussion for years.
A trilateral summit between the two countries and South Korea was scheduled for last December, but was postponed after the impeachment of the then-South Korean president Park Geun-Hye.
Maruyama said there was still no clear timeline for when the talks might take place.
“It’s not so easy,” he told reporters. “When we have to manage a very busy schedule among the three leaders... it’s extremely complicated.”
Tokyo has been wooing China with official visits and business delegations, but an exchange of state visits has remained a hard sell.
Maruyama said much would depend on the success of the summit with South Korea, which Japan hopes to host.
If it comes together, Li would lead the Chinese delegation, setting up the possibility of an Abe visit to China and then, eventually, a visit by Xi to Japan, he said.
In his meeting with Kono, Li noted the positive trend in Sino-Japanese ties, but emphasized the “relations are still confronted with uncertainties,” according to China’s official Xinhua news service.
Earlier in the day, Wang told Kono the two countries were at a “crucial stage” in their relationship, adding “there is positive progress, but many disturbances and obstacles remain.”
A longstanding dispute over islands in the East China Sea — known as the “Senkakus” in Japanese and the “Diaoyu” by the Chinese — remains a source of tension.
Tokyo’s decision to “nationalize” some of the islets in 2012 led to a major falling out and the relationship has been slow to recover.
Chinese coast guard vessels routinely travel around the disputed islands, a practice that has brought regular objections from Japan, which controls the region.


Pelosi scrapped Afghan trip after Trump ‘leaked’ details

Updated 29 min 59 sec ago
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Pelosi scrapped Afghan trip after Trump ‘leaked’ details

WASHINGTON: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday excoriated her political nemesis, President Donald Trump, for “outing” her commercial trip to Afghanistan after barring her from using a military aircraft, forcing her to scrap it entirely over security concerns.
The brawl between the no-nonsense Republican leader and the take-no-prisoners Democrat — who is now just two heartbeats away from the presidency — is the latest round in their shutdown showdown.
The federal government has been shuttered for four weeks over Trump’s insistence that a wider budget measure include billions of dollars for a wall on the border with Mexico — and Pelosi’s refusal to do so.
Their spat spilled into the diplomatic arena on Thursday when, after Pelosi suggested that Trump postpone his State of the Union address until the government reopens, the president grounded her military flight.
Pelosi accused Trump of being “very irresponsible” in breaching security protocol.
“We had a report from Afghanistan that the president outing our trip had made the scene on the ground much more dangerous because it’s just a signal to the bad actors that we’re coming,” she told reporters.
The administration strongly denies that it “leaked” any plans about the trip to a war zone.
“The idea we would leak anything that would put the safety and security of any American at risk is a flat-out lie,” a senior White House official said.
The US government shutdown, which has left about 800,000 federal workers without a paycheck, is now the longest in the country’s history — and there is no sign of a compromise.
The Office of Management and Budget reportedly issued a memorandum saying that “under no circumstance during a government shutdown” can a congressional delegation use government aircraft for travel.
However, Republican Representative Lee Zeldin led a delegation to Iraq and other countries since the shutdown began.
Pelosi’s office sounded off on the administration’s handling of her trip, which had not been announced for security reasons.
The State Department released an updated assessment stressing that Trump’s announcement of the Pelosi travel “had significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops,” her spokesman Drew Hammill said.
“This morning, we learned that the administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well.”
Democratic lawmakers have expressed outrage.
“As a former member of the Intelligence Committee who has traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan, disclosing ANY Members’ travel into a war zone is disgraceful and dangerous,” tweeted House Democrat Jan Schakowsky.
“This is unprecedented.”
Trump lashed out at Pelosi once again on Twitter, asking why she and other Democrats would leave the country “on a seven day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid.”
And then his re-election campaign team released a tongue-in-cheek shutdown-related campaign fundraising request.
For a contribution of $20.20, a reference to the next election year, the campaign told supporters it would send a fake red brick to Pelosi and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — to build a wall.