Top Chinese diplomat to travel to Tokyo, Korea amid regional tensions

Wang Yi’s visit comes amid US presidential transition, concerns over China’s regional assertion.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is due to visit Tokyo on Tuesday, marking the first such trip since Japan chose a new leader in September. His visit comes amid growing concerns over Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the region.

Wang is generally expected to pay a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has so far sought to balance Japan’s deep economic dependence on China while also addressing security concerns, including Beijing’s claims about the disputed islets in the East China Sea.

While Suga has avoided the harsh anti-Chinese rhetoric used by the United States, a key ally of Japan, he has taken steps to counter his influence by deepening his ties with Australia and making his first trip abroad. in Vietnam and Indonesia.

“There are several outstanding issues between the two countries, so through high-level meetings, it is important to find solutions to each problem one by one,” Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters on Monday. before the bilateral meeting.

He said he would have a “frank exchange” of views on bilateral relations with Wang, including how to resume traffic between the two countries during the pandemic.

Japanese media reported that Motegi would also raise concerns about China’s heightened activity in the East China Sea.

Commercial breakthroughs

While encouraging its companies to diversify their supply chains outside of China, Japan is moving closer to Beijing through trade deals.

Earlier this month, China signed the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership (RCEP) along with 14 other economies, including Japan and South Korea, but the United States was not a party to the deal.

It was the first multilateral trade agreement for China, the first bilateral tariff reduction agreement between Japan and China, and the first time that China, Japan and South Korea were part of a single free bloc. exchange.

Wang will travel to South Korea after Japan, for talks that will include North Korea.

“For China, this visit is important in rescheduling a strategy towards the two American allies under the next Biden administration,” said Toshiya Takahashi, associate professor of international relations at Shoin University.

President-elect Joe Biden will take office in January after beating incumbent President Donald Trump in the polls earlier this month.

Experts said Wang’s diplomacy could help lay the groundwork for a trilateral summit with Japan and South Korea to promote business partnerships.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said China will “actively consider” signing another regional free trade pact, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Japan, a key pact member state and next year’s president, aims to expand the CPTPP, potentially paving the way for China to join the pact after Trump walks away from it. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was originally a key part of President Barack Obama’s so-called pivot to Asia.

Motegi, Japan’s foreign minister, said on Friday that China’s expression of interests was “welcome” but needed further assessment under the rules of the pact.

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