New Japanese PM Kishida Has First Call With China’s Xi

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Japan's former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida poses for a photograph following a press conference after winning the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's presidential election on September 29, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.(Image: Du Xiaoyi - Pool/Getty Images)

On Oct. 8, Japan’s newly elected prime minister Fumio Kishida spoke with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. During the call, the two leaders agreed to strengthen ties between Japan and the People’s Republic, with Kishida emphasizing 2022 — the 50-year anniversary of the PRC establishing official diplomatic ties with Japan — as an ideal opportunity to do so. They also exchanged views on Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the disputed Senkaku islands. 

Notably, the two leaders did not discuss the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, Kishida told Xi that “he raised concerns between both countries” and “suggested we should continue dialogue in the future.” 

Xi expressed his hopes that China and Japan could be “mutual partners,” telling Kishida that despite the two countries having had a tumultuous past history, Japan and China should continue to abide by four bilateral documents signed since 1972, according to China’s state mouthpiece Xinhua. 

Kishida, of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), assumed office on Oct. 4, taking over from the outgoing Yoshihide Suga, also of the LDP. 

The Senkaku islands, known in Chinese as the Diaoyu islands, are administered by Japan but claimed by both countries. Periodic Chinese incursions have at times led to a rise in tensions between Beijing and Tokyo. 

On Aug. 30, the PRC dispatched seven patrol vessels near the Senkakus, which menaced five Japanese fishing ships. The Japanese Coast Guard later backed them up by sending its own vessels to stave off the intruders. 

Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory, is another sensitive issue to Japan’s national security, as the democratically governed island occupies a key shipping lane that Japan depends on. 

Kishida has expressed his commitment to fostering stronger relations with Taiwan, which faces increasing pressure from the PRC. In recent weeks, mainland China’s air force has sent hundreds of combat planes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, causing protests from the U.S, Japan, and other countries.