Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Kono and his Chinese counterpart kicked off the first high-level economic talks between their nations in eight years on Monday, at a time of tense trade relations with the United States for both countries.
Concern is growing about a trade row between China and the United States in which the two nations have threatened each other with tariffs. Japan has come in for criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump on trade and been hit with tariffs on steel and aluminum, but Japan has not yet threatened counter-tariffs.
China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, is the first Chinese foreign minister to visit Japan in a bilateral context in nine years. He and Kono discussed a broad range of issues, including North Korea, Kono on Sunday night.
“In these eight years, both nations as well as the economic conditions surrounding them have changed greatly, even as our regional economic roles have increased,” Kono said at the start of Monday’s discussions, noting a need for a reset of their often-fraught bilateral ties.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged last year to reset the sometimes touchy relationship between Asia’s two largest economic powers.
“I hope that today we can discuss closer, tighter economic cooperation as well as the regional and global economic situations,” Kono added.
Wang, who spent eight years in Japan as a diplomat including three as ambassador, said the changing economic climate presented fresh opportunities.
“After reopening these talks we’re both standing at new starting points to discuss future cooperation that will, I hope, lead to fresh economic growth for both nations,” Wang said.
Financial markets have been roiled recently over fears that a full-blown U.S.-China trade war could shatter global trade and economic growth, and these issues are likely to be high on the agenda, along with Japanese cooperation on China’s Belt and Road projects.
Japanese officials are also eager to avoid trade friction with the United States, with the issue to be discussed in the Abe and Trump talks later this week.