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Japanese PM voices security concerns in first talks with China's Xi

Japanese PM voices security concerns in first talks with China's Xi

A photo collage showing Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. (Photos: AFP)

BANGKOK: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday (Nov 17) pressed Chinese leader Xi Jinping on regional security issues including North Korea, as Pyongyang fired the latest missile in a record blitz that has sent nuclear fears soaring.

Kishida said he had voiced "serious concerns" in his first face-to-face talks with Xi as the leaders of Asia's two biggest economies met on the sidelines of a Pacific Rim summit in Bangkok.

North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile as Xi and Kishida prepared to meet, and warned Washington and its allies to expect a "fiercer" military response.

China and Japan are key trading partners, but relations have soured in recent years as Beijing bolsters its military, projects power regionally, and takes a harder line on territorial rivalries.

"On North Korea, I expressed our expectation that China will play a role including in the UN security council," Kishida told reporters after the talks - the first in-person meeting between Chinese and Japanese leaders in three years.

Xi flew to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Bangkok from a G20 summit in Bali where US President Joe Biden also pushed him to use his influence to rein in North Korea's activities.

China is Pyongyang's main diplomatic and economic ally, and in May it joined Russia in vetoing a US-led bid at the UN Security Council to tighten sanctions on North Korea.

Kishida's office earlier condemned the latest launch by North Korea, which adds to a flurry that began this month and has included an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Seoul and Washington have warned Pyongyang could be preparing to carry out a nuclear test, which would be its seventh.

Biden held a three-way summit in Phnom Penh last week with allies Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol to discuss the latest drama with North Korea.

The trio issued a joint statement warning that any new nuclear test would be met with a "strong and resolute" response, without giving further details.

Biden said after his talks with Xi on Monday he was confident China did not want Kim Jong Un's regime to escalate tensions any further.

"NO NEW COLD WAR"

Chinese missiles fired during massive military drills around Taiwan in August are believed to have fallen within Japan's exclusive economic zone, and Tokyo has protested at what it calls growing aerial and maritime violations in recent months.

Kishida said he had used the talks to raise concerns over "China's military activities including ballistic missile launches from China" and over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Xi last held face-to-face talks with a Japanese prime minister in December 2019, when he met Shinzo Abe in Beijing, although he has spoken to Kishida by phone.

The APEC gathering, which French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will also attend, caps a diplomatic blitz in Asia, following the G20 and the ASEAN summit in Cambodia.

In written remarks to an APEC business summit on Thursday, Xi laid out a vision of economic cooperation for the Pacific rim, urging more open trade, closer cooperation and smooth supply chains.

"The Asia Pacific is no-one's backyard and should not become an arena for big power contest," he said in the remarks in English.

"No attempt to wage a new Cold War will ever be allowed by the people or by our times."

Biden and Xi's landmark summit talks on Monday sought to cool their rivalry, which has intensified sharply in recent years as Beijing has become more powerful and more assertive about replacing the US-led order that has prevailed since World War II.

The easing of tensions will be welcome news for APEC members who have grown increasingly alarmed at the prospect of having to take sides.

Macron is aiming to relaunch France's strategic ambitions in the Asia-Pacific region after the humiliating blow of Australia cancelling a major submarine contract in 2021.

"In this highly contested region, which is the theatre of a confrontation between the two major world powers, our strategy is to defend freedom and sovereignty," Macron said on Thursday.

Source: AFP/ga/ec
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