On Friday, Japan Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi announced that he will visit China this weekend to hold talks with his counterpart Qin Gang. This will mark the first time in more than three years that a top Japanese diplomat has visited China.
The two countries have been experiencing growing tensions, with a recent dispute over the detention of a Japanese national in Beijing adding to the friction.
During his April 1-2 visit, Hayashi intends to have candid and in-depth discussions with Qin and other officials. He hopes to establish a constructive and stable relationship between the two countries. One of the key issues he will raise is the release of the detained Japanese national.
Additionally, he will discuss security concerns in the region and urge China to take responsible action on global issues, such as Russia’s war on Ukraine.
On Friday, Hayashi acknowledged an agreement between the leaders of Japan and China to build a constructive and stable relationship. However, he also pointed out that there are many challenges and concerns facing Japan-China relations, despite various possibilities for cooperation.
In recent years, Tokyo and Beijing have been at odds over China’s growing influence in the region, which Japan sees as a threat to its national security and economy, despite their close economic ties.
Relationship with China
Hayashi emphasized the importance of building a constructive and stable relationship with China while maintaining Japan’s position on certain issues and seeking responsible actions from China. He also noted that his predecessor’s visit to China in December 2019 was the last such visit made by a top Japanese diplomat.
The latest source of friction between the two sides is China’s detention of an employee of Astellas Pharma, a Japanese pharmaceutical company, on suspicion of spying. Japan’s government has demanded his release and an explanation from China.
China’s Foreign Ministry has accused the Japanese citizen of engaging in espionage activities in violation of Chinese laws. It has also urged Japan’s government to better educate its people on these laws, citing similar cases in the past involving Japanese citizens with business or other connections to China.
Japan considers China a threat to its national and regional security and has been expanding its security cooperation with other countries in the region and Europe, as well as NATO. It has been promoting a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific as a counter to China.
Hayashi is set to attend a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels after his visit to China to reaffirm Japan’s commitment to the rules-based international order and strengthen cooperation with NATO on key issues such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Japan is also concerned about growing joint military exercises between China and Russia around its coasts.