'Substantial efforts' by Tokyo urged to lift ties

Updated: 2016-05-04 04:39

By CAI HONG in Tokyo and ZHANG YUNBI in Beijing(China Daily)

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In the wake of his visit to China over the weekend, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida is apparently moving to lobby Southeast Asian countries to contain China on the South China Sea issue, experts said.

Kishida left Beijing on Sunday and began visiting Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam through Friday.

In a policy speech delivered in Bangkok on Monday, Ki- shida addressed maritime security and renewed a call for countries to respect the "rule of law". He gave a briefing on the statement of the G7 foreign ministers' meeting in Hiroshima last month regarding the maritime issue.

Additionally, Japan's Fuji Television said that, because attitudes differ among ASEAN countries toward China's maritime presence, Kishida emphasized that "it is important for ASEAN to demonstrate uniformity".

He made the remark on Monday while meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Tuesday that China-Japan ties are "still vulnerable and complicated", and China hopes Japan will "make substantial efforts" to improve the relations.

The ministry did not respond to Kishida's comment about the ASEAN countries and the South China Sea.

Zhong Feiteng, an expert on Asia-Pacific affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Tokyo likely will continue stirring tension in the South China Sea, since it will host the G7 leaders' summit later this month.

"Against such a background, the Southeast Asian countries — traditionally friendly with China and economically connected with Japan — will feel Japan's high pressure to take sides on sensitive issues. They don't want to offend either side," Zhong said.

Kishida's high profile on maritime issues "showcases Tokyo's impulse to seek greater development of its defense capabilities after the country adopted radical new security bills," Zhong added.

Contact the writer at zhangyunbi@chinadaily.com.cn