Kishida says he will attend NATO leaders’ summit; stresses need for dialogue with China

by Jun 22, 2023Featured Article, News

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday announced plans to visit Lithuania next month to attend a NATO leaders’ summit as his country steps up cooperation with the Western organization amid China’s increasingly assertive military activity.

Kishida stressed the importance of dialogue with China in order to develop “constructive and stable” relationship with Beijing while his country cooperates with its key ally, the United States. He said the state of U.S.-China relations are crucial to international peace and stability.

At a news conference marking the end of a five-month long parliamentary session, Kishida said reinforcing diplomatic and security measures were among his top policy priorities in the first half of this year. The goal he said, is “to raise Japan’s presence in the international society, to defend the peace of our country and the people’s lives.”

Japan has been strengthening ties with NATO against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and concerns that it may embolden China’s already assertive military activity in East Asia.

The prime minister said he will join NATO leaders at the July 11-12 summit in Lithuania at the invitation of the organization. He said he also will visit NATO headquarters in Belgium. Discussions are also underway to open a NATO office in Japan.

Describing the current security environment of the global community as “the most severe and complex” of the postwar era, Kishida vowed to “fully utilize diplomatic tools” to contribute to the peace and stability of the global community while serving Japan’s national interest.

Kishida said Japan will cooperate with the United States on China policy, while encouraging Beijing to fulfill its responsibility as a global power to observe international rules and order.

Japan is increasingly concerned about China’s coercive activity in the region, especially around Japanese-controlled disputed East China Sea islands that Beijing also claims.

“It is important to continue making effort to have close dialogue at all levels, including myself, and in that process I will consider my possible visit to China, though nothing has been decided right now,” Kishida said.

His comment comes on the heels of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meeting earlier this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, where they agreed to stabilize their countries’ deteriorated ties but fell short of resuming military-to-military contacts aimed at avoiding mishaps and conflict over Taiwan.

Kishida also stressed the importance of dialogue with North Korea, and reiterated that he is stepping up his effort toward achieving a possible summit with leader Kim Jong Un on the decades-old issue of abductions of Japanese nationals by Pyongyang. The issue was only partially resolved and North Korea has never provided a full account for those still believed to be held.

With many families of the abductees growing older, resolving the problem has become an increasingly urgent human rights issue, Kishida said.

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