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Top Diplomats of Japan, China Discuss Bilateral Issues

The top diplomats of longtime rivals China and Japan opened talks in Beijing on Sunday to discuss a slew of thorny issues ranging from the release of a Japanese businessman detained on suspicion of espionage in China and a lingering territorial row.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi met his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang in Beijing, with the top Japanese diplomat expected to seek the prompt release of a Japanese businessman detained on suspicion of espionage and convey Tokyo’s concerns over alleged trespassing of Chinese vessels into waters near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, and joint military activities between China and Russia near Japanese territory, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.

Senkaku Islands are also claimed by Beijing.

This is the first meeting to be conducted in person between Hayashi, who is undertaking the first trip to China by a Japanese foreign minister since December 2019, and Qin, who took the office late last year.

The incarcerated man, said to be an employee of a Japanese pharmaceutical firm, was arrested in China last month on suspicion of engaging in espionage. Tokyo has been calling for his early release and the provision of consular access to him.

Qin, for his part, is likely to voice concern over Tokyo’s latest decision to tighten export controls for advanced chip manufacturing equipment, a measure seen as an effort to hinder Beijing’s development of cutting-edge semiconductors that could be used for military purposes, the news agency reported.

The Chinese top diplomat is also expected to relay Beijing’s worries over Tokyo’s plan to start releasing treated radioactive water into the sea from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant sometime this spring or summer.

The Japanese foreign minister, in his opening remarks, said that it is becoming “increasingly important” Japan and China uphold “constructive and stable” bilateral relations agreed upon by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their summit talks last November, despite “many challenges.”

Last November, Kishida, and Xi agreed at a summit in Bangkok to arrange Hayashi’s visit to China.

Noting that this year marks the 45th anniversary of the signing of the 1978 bilateral “Peace and Friendship Treaty,” Qin said that “right choices” must be made to honor the spirit of the pact.

He vowed to work with his Japanese counterpart to promote further exchanges and dialogue so that the two countries can “move ahead by removing obstacles.”

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