BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping called for stronger ties between his country and Japan in a congratulatory message sent Wednesday to new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who took office the same day.
China and Japan are friendly neighbors, and stable long-term development of Sino-Japanese relations will be in the fundamental interest of the people of the two countries, Xi said.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang separately sent a message to congratulate Suga on becoming prime minister to succeed Shinzo Abe, who stepped down due to health problems.
It is rare for both China’s president and premier to send congratulatory messages to a new Japanese prime minister, diplomatic sources said, hinting that the Xi administration attaches importance to relations with Japan.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin stressed at a news conference on Tuesday that China highly rates Suga’s pledge to establish a stable relationship with Beijing.
A Chinese expert on Japan said Suga is highly likely to take over Abe’s policy of giving some consideration to China, as Suga served as chief cabinet secretary under the Abe administration for seven years and eight months.
The Global Times, a newspaper linked to the Communist Party of China’s People’s Daily, said in the editorial in its Tuesday edition that the Suga administration is expected to work to develop China-Japan relations while continuing to use his country’s alliance with the United States as a cornerstone of its diplomacy, in order to maximize Japan’s benefits.
Still, Japan and China are sharply at odds over issues, including on the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu.
The Chinese side is alarmed by Suga’s choice of Nobuo Kishi, Abe’s younger brother, who has close links with Taiwan, as new defense minister.
Wang said China hopes that Kishi will follow the “one China” principle and avoid any form of official contact with Taiwan while working to strengthen Japan-China defense exchanges.