Xi, Kishida meet as North Korea fires missile

The leaders of China and Japan will hold their first face-to-face talks in three years on the sidelines of a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. (Photo: AFP)
The leaders of China and Japan held their first face-to-face talks in three years on Thursday, after North Korea fired the latest in a record missile blitz that has sent nuclear fears soaring.اضافة اعلان

Chinese President Xi Jinping flew in to the talks in Bangkok from a G20 meeting in Bali where US President Joe Biden pressed him to use his influence to rein in Pyongyang's activities.

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

The pair met on the sidelines of a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum focused on pandemic recovery and the global economic turmoil unleashed by the war in Ukraine.

"It is important that we accelerate the building of a Japan-China relationship that is constructive and stable, through the efforts of both sides," Kishida said at the start of the meeting.

His office had 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 the North 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 the North.

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 -- Pyongyang's main diplomatic and economic ally -- did not want Kim Jong Un's regime to escalate tensions any further.

- 'No new Cold War' -

China and Japan -- the world's second- and third-largest economies -- are key trading partners, but relations have soured as Beijing bolsters its military, projects power regionally, and takes a harder line on territorial rivalries.

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.

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.

While the pair still clashed on the question of self-governing Taiwan's future -- a major regional flashpoint -- they found common ground on Ukraine.

They underlined that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons was unacceptable -- a clear rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin's threats over his failing war in Ukraine.

Macron landed in Bangkok late Wednesday 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.

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