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.


German city of Hamburg ato restrict older diesel vehicles

A car passes a traffic sign showing a ban on diesel cars at the Max-Brauer Allee in downtown Hamburg, Germany, on May 23, 2018. (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer)
Updated 27 min 3 sec ago
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German city of Hamburg ato restrict older diesel vehicles

  • Diesel bans will affect two streets, non-Euro-6 models
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has long sought to avoid bans, as has the VDA auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.

BERLIN: Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg, will ban the most polluting diesel vehicles from two major streets from next week, a move that could spur others to follow suit and raise pressure on carmakers to consider costly vehicle refits.
Hamburg, home to around 1.8 million people, said on Wednesday the ban would start on May 31 and affect diesel models that do not meet the latest Euro-6 emissions standards.
This follows a ruling in February by Germany’s top administrative court that the cities of Stuttgart and Duesseldorf should consider bans for older diesels.
The detailed publication of that ruling last Friday showed local authorities were entitled to implement targeted bans with immediate effect to bring air pollution levels into line with European Union rules, although curbs affecting wider city areas should only be phased in over time.
Bans on diesel vehicles from city centers are also planned in Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens by 2025, while the mayor of Copenhagen wants to bar new diesel cars from entering the city center as soon as next year.
Since the German ruling was disclosed, the environment minister of Germany’s northernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein, has said banning older diesel vehicles could also be an option for the regional capital Kiel, a city of about 250,000 people.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has long sought to avoid bans, as has the VDA auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.
Environment Minister Svenja Schulze — a member of the Social Democrats, junior partners in Merkel’s coalition government — urged carmakers to roll out retrofits for diesel cars to lower emissions. “Driving bans like those in Hamburg show how serious the situation is,” she told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “It’s up to the car industry now.”
Levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emitted by diesel engines and known to cause respiratory disease should fall significantly as more efficient Euro-6 models are sold and emissions-cleaning software updates take effect, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.
The bans in Hamburg affect a section of about 1.6 km (one mile) on Stresemannstrasse, where the restrictions will apply only to commercial vehicles weighing 3.5 tons or more, and a section of about 580 meters on Max-Brauer-Allee, covering all diesel vehicles.
Both thoroughfares are in Altona, a busy district in the west of the city.
Drivers aiming for a destination on the two affected streets, including residents, trash collectors, suppliers and taxis, will be exempt from the restrictions as they are designed to filter out through traffic, a spokesman for Hamburg’s environment and energy department said.
Of the 330,000 diesel cars on Hamburg’s roads, only about 116,000 have the Euro-6 technology that was introduced in 2014, according to local government data.
Police will make random checks and fine drivers of older diesel cars 25 euros ($30) and truck owners up to 75 euros for violating the new rules, he said.