China, Japan to lift restrictions on business travel

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi is on a tour of Japan and South Korea this week as both countries experience a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI

Nov. 24 (UPI) — China and Japan have agreed to “fast track” business travel between the two countries after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his Japanese counterpart in Tokyo.

Wang, who is to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday, is on a weeklong tour of Japan and South Korea. On Tuesday, Wang addressed the issue of expediting travel, but also raised the issue of disputed islands in the East China Sea, VOA News reported.

“Some Japanese fishing boats that do not have knowledge about the truth have repeatedly entered sensitive waters” near the islands, Wang said, according to the report. “We will certainly continue to safeguard [Chinese] sovereignty.”

Beijing claims the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands as its own. In recent years, Chinese fishing boats have been chased out of Japan-claimed territorial waters, and Tokyo’s military have invested in new units to increase surveillance near the islands.

Expectations have been building in China for improved relations with Tokyo. Before the pandemic, the two countries were moving forward with plans for a summit between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Wang Guangtao, an associate research fellow at the Center for Japanese Studies at Fudan University, has said China could play a greater role in regional affairs, according to South Korean newspaper Hankook Ilbo.

The Chinese academic also said the recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership would allow China and Japan to operate in a free trade zone for the first time, according to Chinese state media Sunday.

On Wednesday, Wang Yi is to visit Seoul, but his trip comes at a time when China’s response during the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic has soured South Korean opinion of Beijing, reflecting trends in other countries.

According to an October poll from Pew Research Center seven in 10 respondents in Japan and South Korea say China has done a poor job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. Unfavorable views of China are at a historic high, the poll said.


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