Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto arrived in Beijing on Sunday to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, shortly after China renewed warnings to Japan to stop violating its sovereignty in the East China Sea.
Takeaki would hold talks with Yang today before departing the same afternoon, a press officer with the Japanese embassy in Beijing told the Global Times.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei said Friday that Matsumoto’s talks with Yang would focus on bilateral relations, as well as other regional and international issues of common concern.
Following talks with then US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in June, Matsumoto signed a joint statement with the US, ramping up pressure on China over the regional issues.
During the talks, Matsumoto and Clinton agreed to deal with the South China Sea issue jointly with Southeast Asian nations, with Clinton calling out China’s naval activities for creating tension in the region, the Kyodo News reported.
Lü Yaodong, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that Monday’s talks may see Yang hold Matsumoto to account over this statement, which clearly violated China’s interests in the South China Sea.
Yang Bojiang, director of Japanese Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that Matsumoto’s trip to Beijing could also be aimed at preparing a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
Kan recently told close aides that he wants to attend an event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of China’s 1911 Revolution, or Xinhai Revolution, in Beijing on October 10, Reuters reported.
“Kan may think a visit to China could positively impact his approval ratings and help him cling to his position longer, despite his promise to resign after recovery works from the massive earthquake and tsunami had made progress,” Yang Bojiang said.
“However, whether this tactic succeeds depends on the result of his possible visit. I do not think he will score any breakthroughs on major differences between the two sides, such as the East China Sea issue,” he added.
Yang Bojiang said that aside from promoting cooperation, the two ministers would discuss the East China Sea issue, following a recent exchange over maritime activities in the region.
Referring to an incident which saw Japanese patrol ships drive off a fishing boat from Taiwan near the Diaoyu Islands on Wednesday, Hong said China has indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and their surrounding waters, and called the Japanese ships’ action illegal.
China also declares sovereignty over the Chunxiao oil and gas fields situated in the East China Sea, but Japan disputes this.
On Tuesday, Hong rejected claims by Japanese officials that a Chinese research ship had conducted studies within Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on June 23.
Also June 23, Japan’s Ministry of Defense claimed that 11 Chinese warships were spotted in international waters off the southern Japanese island of Okinawa while returning from target practice and refueling exercises, the AP reported.
“Given the complexity of the East China Sea issue and the political turbulence in Japan, it is unlikely that any concrete or specific agreement will be reached during Matsumoto’s short stay,” Yang Bojiang said.
Ties between China and Japan dipped in September when Japanese patrol ships collided with a Chinese trawler near the Diaoyu Islands and detained the trawler’s captain.
Meanwhile, citing an unnamed government official, the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency said on Sunday that the South Korean government would submit an official document to extend its EEZ to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf by the end of this year.
In the document, Seoul is expected to claim that the Korean Peninsula’s extended continental shelf stretches to the Okinawa Trough in the East China Sea. This would see the country’s statutory EEZ surpass the standard 200 nautical miles (370.4 kilometers).
This formal claim will likely spark copycat measures from Beijing and Tokyo, reigniting disputes among the Asian neighbors, the official told Yonhap.
Zhu Shanshan contributed to this story