Japan, China foreign ministers hold talks

Japan, China foreign ministers hold talks
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida gestures as he attends the launching ceremony of the logo of the ASEAN Regional Forum Disaster Relief Exercises (ARF DiREx 2015) at the Myanmar International Convention Center (MICC) in Naypyidaw on August 10, 2014.

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar -Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, held talks in Myanmar's capital Saturday, the first meeting of its kind in two years.

The talks took place on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other countries.

Saturday's meeting was the first between the Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers since the launch of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's second Cabinet in December 2012.

"[We] discussed how to make progress in improving [bilateral] relations for many hours. [We] expressed candid opinions," Kishida told reporters after the meeting.

The talks were preceded by a meeting between Kishida and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se.

The two meetings marked the first step in Japanese efforts to improve relations with China and South Korea at a time when the nation's ties with the two countries remain seriously strained, according to observers.

Kishida had informal talks with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong on Sunday to exchange views on Pyongyang's new investigation into the fate of Japanese nationals in that country, including those abducted by North Korean agents.

Talks were also held among Kishida, Yun and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Kishida-Wang meeting took place in Naypyitaw late Saturday night. Their talks follow a similar meeting between the top foreign officials from the two countries in September 2012 in New York that was held immediately after Japan placed the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture under state control.

Though Kishida did not give the press the details of his meeting with Wang, they are believed to have explained their nations' respective stances on the Senkaku problem.

"I hope [Saturday's meeting] will be the first step in improved relations between the two nations," Kishida told reporters.

On Sunday, however, Wang rejected the view that their talks had been arranged as a formal meeting. "[The meeting] was an informal exchange. It was specially arranged in response to a Japanese request," he told reporters.

The Chinese foreign minister also said Beijing would carefully watch the course of action taken by Tokyo to improve bilateral ties. "It remains to be seen whether the China-Japan relationship can be improved. What is important is whether Japan will act with sincerity and implement actual measures [to achieve that goal]," he said.

The Japanese government hopes the meeting between the two foreign ministers will pave the way for realizing a formal summit meeting between the two nations, which last took place in December 2011.

Views exchanged with N. Korea

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida exchanged opinions with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong regarding Pyongyang's new investigation into the fate of Japanese abductees and other issues at the venue for an ASEAN Regional Forum meeting Sunday.

Kishida told his North Korean counterpart that the reclusive state should make steady progress in reinvestigating the fate of the abductees and all other Japanese in that country. North Korea is scheduled to release the first report on the results of its probe in early September.

The Japanese foreign minister also protested North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

Sunday's exchange was the first of its kind since July last year. Ri, who became foreign minister in April, is believed to be an influential figure in the communist regime and maintains close ties with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"[We] discussed [North Korea's] special investigative committee [tasked with reinvestigating the fate of those kidnapped] and such security issues as [Pyongyang's] nuclear and missile development," Kishida told reporters. "I conveyed Japan's opinions and positions [to Ri]."

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