Japan's new foreign minister has said it is critical to build constructive and stable ties with China, while also calling for its giant neighbour to behave responsibly.
Dedicated US ally Japan has recently become increasingly vocal in challenging China's assertiveness on topics such as the disputed South China Sea and China's claim to self-ruled Taiwan.
At the same time, Japan's ruling party intends to evaluate its defence posture in the face of China's military growth, with the goal of significantly increasing defence spending. Yoshimasa Hayashi emphasised the significance of constructive, stable relations with China.
"Ties between Japan and China are becoming increasingly crucial not only for our two nations, but also for the region's and international community's peace and prosperity," Hayashi said. "We must assert and demand responsible behaviour while maintaining dialogue and firmly cooperating on shared challenges," he stated.
For years, a territorial dispute over a handful of tiny East China Sea islets, as well as the legacy of Japan's past military aggressiveness, have plagued relations between the two countries.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hayashi believes the time is not yet right to schedule a visit to Japan by Chinese President Xi Jinping. A state visit by Xi had been planned for 2020, but had to be postponed due to the coronavirus.
Hayashi also announced that he will resign as head of the Japan-China Parliamentarians' Friendship League in order to avoid "unnecessary misunderstanding." Conservative members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have expressed reservations about Hayashi's ability to take a firm stance on China.
It has been reported that Yuko Obuchi, a former trade minister and daughter of former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, will take over as league head.