Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, sitting opposite Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a summit meeting on the outskirts of Bangkok on Nov. 4 (Pool)

  • Photo/Illustraion

BANGKOK--China announced plans to host a summit meeting in Chengdu with Japan and South Korea next month, citing the importance of expanding bilateral relations with both countries.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, meeting here with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the ASEAN Plus Three summit Nov. 4, said China and Japan should focus on shared interests and work to bolster them, according to Japanese officials.

“The two countries are neighbors and key players in the global economy,” the premier was quoted as saying by a Japanese official. “Japan and China believe that multilateralism and free trade should be maintained.”

The two leaders also reaffirmed during the 25-minute meeting that Tokyo and Beijing will closely coordinate a planned visit to Japan by Chinese President Xi Jinping in spring as a state guest.

Abe said Japan is ready to fully work with China to make Xi’s visit a significant one commensurate with the start of a new era in relations for the two countries.

Abe also conveyed his concern to Li about the detention of a Japanese professor at Hokkaido University by Chinese authorities after the scholar visited Beijing in September.

Asked about the reaction of Chinese officials to the issue, Akihiro Nishimura, the deputy chief Cabinet secretary, said, “We will refrain from giving details of the exchanges.”

Abe also voiced concern about the ongoing turmoil in Hong Kong triggered by fierce and massive demonstrations by anti-government protesters.

According to the Chinese foreign ministry, Li responded by saying China and Japan should respect each other’s core interests and handle sensitive issues appropriately.

Li’s remark was interpreted as a reminder to Abe to respect the principles of “one China,” which Tokyo embraced in the 1972 Joint Communique of Japan and China and other official forums.

Li's reference to the “one-China” policy reflects the Chinese top leadership’s displeasure over an exchange between Abe and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen through recent Twitter posts.

When Tsai posted a tweet expressing sympathy to Japanese victims affected by Typhoon No. 19 that hit eastern Japan last month, Abe in return expressed his appreciation for her gesture.

He also said in his tweet: “Taiwan, to Japan, is an important partner that shares basic values and is an important friend.”

The focus of attention at the trilateral summit in Chengdu will be on whether Abe holds official talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to find a breakthrough in deeply strained bilateral relations.

Ties between the two countries hit a postwar low after South Korea’s Supreme Court delivered a series of rulings since late last year ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation to Korean wartime laborers.

Abe met with Moon for about 10 minutes to exchange pleasantries ahead of the ASEAN Plus Three summit on Nov. 4, but did not engage in a full-fledged discussion.

(This article was written by Naoki Kikuchi and Masayuki Takada.)