Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has spent the past several months making diplomatic overtures to Chinese President Xi Jinping, in the hopes that he can secure a meeting with the Chinese leader at the upcoming APEC conference. According to China’s Ambassador to Japan, those efforts are paying off. The Asahi Shimbun reports:
“We are sensing changes in (the Japanese side’s recent) positive moves,” Chinese Ambassador Cheng Yonghua said during a speech in Tokyo.Late last month, Abe emphasized his continued willingness to thaw the chilly ties that are currently strained over the territorial dispute concerning the Senkaku Islands and the differences in perceptions of shared history.“The peaceful development of China is a great opportunity for Japan,” Abe said during his policy speech on the opening of the extraordinary Diet session on Sept. 29. “I intend to realize a summit meeting at an early time to build stable, friendly relations.”
Abe’s campaign to woo China has been long and concerted. For months, he has tread carefully in order to avoid underlining the two countries’ fraught history. Then, he installed pro-China officials in top positions in his reshuffled cabinet. Most recently and perhaps most importantly, he opened bilateral dialogue over territorial disputes about the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. He has managed to do all of this while maintaining his reputation as a hardline Japanese nationalist and while expanding the legal limits for the use of Japanese military force.If Abe continues to prove as deft at handling Sino-Japanese relations as he has so far, it bodes very well for the chances of an Abe-Xi meeting at APEC, and also for this important relationship in general.