Japan, China Holds First Ministerial Level Meeting Since Abe's Shrine Visit
May 19, 2014 • 9:27AM

Trade ministers from Japan and China agreed May 17 on the need to develop business ties during the first formal cabinet-level meeting since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine in December.

Toshimitsu Motegi, the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, was in China to attend a meeting of trade ministers of nations belonging to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum. In his talks with Gao Hucheng, China's Commerce Minister, the two acknowledged the difficult political issues confronting the two nations, but they stressed the importance of economic cooperation and a possible free trade agreement that would include South Korea.

According to a statement from China's Commerce Ministry, Gao brought up the territorial dispute between the two nations over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. "It is hurting normal relations between the two nations. Japan bears responsibility," the statement quoted Gao as saying. But Gao also said, "We hold the understanding that maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests will benefit the peoples of the two nations, and in that vein, we are emphasizing economic ties."

Motegi raised concerns about recent anti-Japanese legal action in China that concerns Japanese World War II actions. But, Motegi also passed on the Japanese government's expectations that the meeting will lead to a Japan-China head-of-state summit on the sidelines of the APEC conference in Beijing in November.

"While there are difficult issues facing the Japan-China relationship, we agreed on the need to cooperate in the economic sphere," Motegi told reporters after his meeting with Gao. "It was an extremely good atmosphere."

China said it hoped that relations between the nations would improve and "create favorable conditions for the resumption of Sino-Japanese economic and trade relations."