Japan, China agree to work towards easing East China Sea tensions

Tokyo, Nov 24 (efe-epa).- Japan and China have pledged to work towards reducing tensions between their naval forces around the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, which is the subject of a territorial dispute, the two countries’ foreign ministers said during a meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Toshimitsu Motegi and Wang Yi addressed the most contentious issue in their bilateral relations in the first high-level meeting between the governments of the neighboring Asian giants since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a joint statement to the media after the meeting, Motegi said he had asked his counterpart to “take positive action” to ease tensions around the remote islands in the East China Sea.

Tokyo has been denouncing the regular incursion of Chinese ships in waters around the Senkaku islets, which are under Japanese control although China and Taiwan also have competing sovereignty claims over the area.

Wang pointed out that Japanese ships have also entered Chinese territorial waters, which has “forced Beijing to take necessary measures,” and reaffirmed China’s willingness to defend its sovereignty over the islands, which are known as the Diaoyu in China.

But he stressed that both countries should consciously “avoid problems” related to the dispute, and called to “solve them appropriately through the exchange of opinions” that will be done through a series of working meetings on maritime affairs to be held by both parties.

“Neither country will be a threat to the other and we will continue to be partners,” said the Chinese foreign minister, who is visiting Japan until Thursday, when he is scheduled to meet with the new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who took over from Shinzo Abe after he stepped down in the summer due to chronic health problems.

The two foreign ministers also agreed to reopen their borders at the end of the month for short- and long-term business travel between the two countries. Extensive restrictions on the entry of foreign visitors have been imposed by both Japan and China due to the pandemic.

Motegi stressed the importance of the agreement to “help revive economic activities” between their two nations and to “promote mutual understanding,” in his statement to the media.

Japan began restricting the entry of travelers from some Chinese regions in February and subsequently extended them to the entire country and a wide range of territories around the world, as did China, its major trading partner.

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