Li Keqiang says although bilateral relationship ‘not fully established and still fragile’ does not want to see ties go backwards
By Mahmut Atanur
BEIJING – Despite ongoing frictions over the East China Sea, China’s prime minister highlighted improvements Wednesday in his country’s relationship with Japan, saying that he did not want to see relations between Asia’s two largest economies slip into reverse.
State news agency Xinhua quoted Premier Li Keqiang as telling a news conference at the end of an annual meeting of the country’s parliament that there had been some signs of improvement, but it’s not fully established yet.
“It is still fragile,” he underlined.
“We believe that it is important to adhere to the consensus reached by the two sides on the issue of principle involving history, and it is important to match one’s words with concrete actions.”
On Wednesday, Japan’s ruling party urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to consider seeking international arbitration over Beijing’s drilling activities in the East China Sea, where the two countries have become embroiled in a festering territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands.
Such actions have already been pursued by the Philippines in the South China Sea, where tensions have increased between claimants after China began turning reefs into islands, installing airstrips for fighter and surveillance jets, and placing what the United States has claimed were missile launches on the shore.
Japan has no territorial claims in the South China Sea, even though several islands were garrisoned by the country’s navy during World War II.
Quietly encouraged by the U.S., Japan has also been moving into a new arena of potential conflict with China by forging security ties with Vietnam and the Philippines — the two Southeast Asian countries at the forefront of the South China Sea disputes with China.
Ties between Japan and China have also been strained by Beijing’s view that Tokyo has failed to properly atone for its wartime past.
– Anadolu Agency Correspondent Satuk Bugra Kutlugun contributed to this story from Ankara