Thursday, November 07, 2019

China, Japan Must Cement Ties for Future
Global Times
2019/10/30 19:50:40

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to open up a new era in China-Japan relations and push bilateral ties to a new level in early October. Where are bilateral ties between the two neighbors headed? How can the two East Asian powers cooperate? Global Times (GT) reporter Yan Yunming talked to Akiko Yamanaka (Yamanaka), special advisor to the president of Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia, and former vice minister for foreign affairs of Japan, on the sidelines of the Ninth Beijing Xiangshan Forum held from October 20 to 22.

GT: How do you see China-Japan relations in the future?

Yamanaka: Last year when Beijing Xiangshan Forum was held in October, Mr. Abe brought business people and politicians to Beijing, and several agreements in various fields were signed. That was the beginning of Japan coming closer to China.

Of course, we had many difficult times in the past, but Mr. Abe has made up his mind - so have many business people and members of parliament - that we should have a good relationship with China. I think Mr. Abe's words are really positive. In fact, he is coming to China for the trilateral summit between China, South Korea and Japan within this year. And it is likely that Chinese President Xi Jinping may go to Japan for an official visit in the season of cherry blossoms. We do not know the exact time. The G20 summit this year was also an opportunity. Both the top leaders have made up their mind to push forward the good relations between Japan and China.

GT: What is the importance of China-Japan relations to the Asia-Pacific region?

Yamanaka: China is a really big country. Its population is 10 times that of Japan. Japan is a relatively small island country. But Japan's economic power, technology, people's mind-set and some other developments probably have a great contribution to the region's stability and peace.

China was a developing country - I would use the past tense. Now, it is the world's second-largest economy. I think as a country, China is already a developed one. That is why I think it is really important for China to behave as one of the leaders of the international community. That means China has to think about the common interests of the world, so that neighboring countries can respect China.

China and Japan have to be together all the time, in good or bad times. China-Japan relations have been through ups and downs. We can now overcome all those things. And for the following generations, we can lay a firm base for the bilateral friendship, in not only the economic field, but also people-to-people exchanges - including cultural communication, sports and music - and security issues.

I have hope and I think this will contribute to future relations between the two countries.

GT: Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe mentioned in his keynote speech at the Beijing Xiangshan Forum that regional affairs should be handled by regional members. How do you see this?

Yamanaka: Of course. But apart from regional issues, we also have to think about global issues. If we limit these to the regional people, the stronger power wins all the time. It is not fair for the small states. So sometimes we have to get global countries involved. Sometimes if you are in a group, you cannot realize that something is wrong; but if you listen to others, you can make things much better.

So I think it is a kind of balance. I think regional affairs should be mainly discussed and solved by countries in the region, while we should also make use of others. We are now in an interconnected international community, and we need to think about both sides. Balance is very, very important.

GT: How do you see the Japan-US alliance?

Yamanaka: After World War II, the world community, including the US and China, did not allow Japan to be militarized again. So we couldn't and can't have the so-called military even at this moment. But we really hope to make some positive contributions to world peace and security, which needs self-defense forces.

As you know quite well, Japan and China have done a lot of wonderful cooperative work in the Gulf of Aden to resolve the piracy issue. So we can do a lot of things together for world security. But in order to work together at the UN Peacekeeping Operation activities in third countries, we have to have the mutual trust. For example, if your colleagues are attacked, you have to help attack back. However, Japanese Self-Defense Forces were not allowed to do so. That is the reason why Japan's self-defense legislation was amended in 2015.

I think that the alliance between Japan and the US is not Japan's choice, but has been given by the world. So I think it's not going to fade away at all, unless the international community changes its mind.

GT: In September, the first foreign minister-level meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue was held. Some people believe that the meeting was mainly a bid to counter China's growing might. Is that so?

Yamanaka: China's defense budget, which grew by 7.5 percent in 2019 year on year, is bigger than the country's economic growth rate. That might be what the neighboring countries are worried about. I think China is already a big country. You don't have to be too sensitive about this, because each country has its stance.

The world has changed very rapidly. However, more transparency and more detailed explanation are expected.

I think the age defined by enemies or friends should be finished. We have to cooperate with everybody. Otherwise nothing is going to be achieved, because the world community is so interconnected.

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