Wang Yi’s visit comes amid concerns about the transition to the U.S. presidency and China’s regional position.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Tokyo on Tuesday after Japan selects a new leader in September. His visit comes amid growing concerns over Beijing’s growing presence in the region.
Wang is widely expected to make a polite call on Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has so far tried to balance Japan’s deep economic dependence on China when addressing security concerns, including Beijing’s claims over the disputed East China Sea islands.
Suga articulated the harsh anti-China rhetoric used by Japan’s main ally, the United States, and moved to counter its influence by further enhancing ties with Australia and his first foreign trip to Vietnam and Indonesia.
“Various issues between the two countries are pending, so it is important to reach solutions to each problem individually, through high-level meetings,” Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters ahead of Monday’s bilateral meeting.
He said there would be a “clear exchange” on bilateral relations with Wang, including how to resume traffic between the two countries during the epidemic.
Japanese media reported that Motegi was concerned about Chinese beef operations in the East China Sea.
While encouraging their companies to expand supply chains away from China, Japan is getting closer to Beijing through trade deals.
Earlier this month, China signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with 14 other economies, including Japan and South Korea, but the US party was not involved in the deal.
This is the first multilateral trade agreement with China, the first bilateral tariff-reduction arrangement between Japan and China, and the first in a single free-trade alliance between China, Japan and South Korea.
Wang will then travel to South Korea, Japan, for talks involving North Korea.
“For China, this visit is crucial to redesigning a strategy towards the two US-allies in the upcoming Biden administration,” said Toshia Takahashi, an associate professor of international relations at Shoaib University.
President-elect Joe Biden is set to be sworn in in January after defeating current Donald Trump in an election earlier this month.
Experts say Wang’s diplomacy will help lay the groundwork for a tripartite summit with Japan and South Korea to promote trade partnerships.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has said he will “actively consider” signing up for another regional free trade agreement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Japan, a key member of the deal and chair next year, aims to expand the CPTPP, allowing China to join the deal after Trump pulls out. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was originally a key component of what President Barack Obama called the pivot to Asia.
Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi said on Friday that China’s expression of interest was “welcome” but needed further assessment in line with the terms of the agreement.