Japan and China’s foreign ministers discuss disputes

Japanse Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi had a frank meeting with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang in Beijing on Sunday.

The first visit by a Japanese foreign minister to China in more than three years comes just days after Tokyo announced plans to restrict some computer chip-making exports.

“The United States used bullying tactics to brutally suppress the Japanese semiconductor industry, and now it is repeating its old tricks against China,” Qin told his counterpart, according to a readout of the meeting.

He also accused Japan of being Washington’s “minion.”

Hayashi told reporters the restrictions were  “consistent with international rules,” adding that they were “not aimed at a specific country.”

Hayashi calls for release of Japanese nationals detained for spying

During the meeting, Hayashi demanded the release of a Japanese citizen in who was recently taken into custody in China.

The person, who was not named but is believed to be an employee of Astellas Pharma Inc, was detained in Beijing on espionage charges.

“I made a protest against the recent detention of a Japanese person in Beijing, and made a strong point of our position on the matter, including the early release of this national,” Hayashi told reporters.

Qin said that “China would deal with him according to the law,” without offering further details on the case.

According to Japan’s Foreign Ministry, five Japanese nationals are currently detained in China.

Rising regional tension

The two countries are also at odds over disputed islands in the East China Sea, and tensions have been rising over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory.

Hayashi said he spoke to Qin about the “importance of ensuring peace and stability in the Taiwan strait.”

Beijing said Qin warned Japan “not to interfere in the Taiwan issue or undermine China’s sovereignty in any form,” stressing that Taiwan is “the core of China’s core interests.”

Beijing’s growing regional assertiveness will likely be among the key topics discussed at this year’s G7 summit hosted by Japan in Hiroshima.

Qin expressed the hope that Japan would use its presidency of the Group of Seven major powers to guide the “tone and direction of the meeting.”

Hayashi said that, despite their differences, the two Asian powers agreed to restart trilateral talks with South Korea, calling it  “an important achievement.”

The two ministers also committed to working together to achieve “a constructive and stable relationship,” as agreed between their leaders in November.

“We agreed to continue communicating closely on various levels, including the foreign ministerial and leadership levels,” Hayashi said.

Hayashi also met Chinese Premier Li Qiang and top diplomat Wang Yi later Sunday.

lo/nm (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)