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Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou Gives a Joint Interview to Japanese Media in China

2019/05/13

On May 10, 2019, Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou gave a joint interview to principals of Japanese media in China, during which he answered such questions as China-Japan relations, bilateral exchanges and cooperation and the situation on the Korean Peninsula. 17 Japanese media in China attended the interview, including Kyodo News, Jiji Press, Yomiuri Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Tokyo Shimbun, Sankei Shimbun, Hokkaido Shimbun, Nishinippon Shimbun, Shimbun Akahata, NHK, Nippon Television Network, Tokyo Broadcasting System, Inc., TV Asahi Corporation, Fuji Television Network, Inc., and TV TOKYO Corporation. The transcript of the interview is as follows:

Q1. What is your aspiration for the continuous improvement of Japan-China relations in the future?

A: China-Japan relations have weathered storms and returned to the right track. The improvement of bilateral relations has not come easily. Both sides should cherish it and make persistent efforts. The Chinese side is willing to make joint efforts with the Japanese side to push for stable and long-term bilateral relations on the basis of the principles set forth in the four political documents between the two countries.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, while Japan has entered the "Reiwa" era. China-Japan relations stand at a new historical starting point. The two sides should constantly deepen mutual understanding and trust, jointly expand the cake of common interests, properly handle differences in the development of bilateral relations, take an active part in global governance and elevate China-Japan relations to a new level in the region and beyond.

Q2. What is your expectation of the outcomes of the G20 Osaka Summit to be attended by President Xi Jinping in June?

A: In today's world, peace and development remains the theme of the times. At the same time, instability and uncertainty are rising; unilateralism and protectionism are on the rise, and the economic downside risks are mounting. As the main forum for international economic cooperation, the G20 should play a leading role in global governance, which is also the common expectation of the international community. Against this backdrop, the G20 Osaka Summit is of greater significance. The Chinese side is ready to actively support the Japanese side in successfully hosting the summit.

We expect that the G20 Osaka Summit will first send a positive signal to promote multilateralism and an open world economy and strengthen the international community's confidence in maintaining a free economic system. Second, we should strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination, promote supply-side structural reform, promote innovation-driven growth, and make further progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and addressing climate change and other global issues. Third, we should adhere to consensus, properly handle differences in a constructive way and fully accommodate the legitimate concerns of developing countries.

Q3. It is said that the visit of 3,000 Japanese youth to China in 1984 was the golden age of Japan-China relations. Are Japan-China relations better now than they were then? If so, what are the reasons for the improvement? If not, what other issues will affect the bilateral relations?

A: The Chinese people are used to looking at things in the light of development, and the same is true of bilateral relations. In 2018, the economic and trade volume of China and Japan reached nearly 330 billion US dollars, with nearly 12 million people traveling between the two countries, and 254 pairs of sister cities. Exchanges and cooperation mechanisms have sprung up in various fields and at various levels. The interests of the two countries have been highly integrated, and the significance of China-Japan relations goes increasingly beyond the bilateral scope. As important members of the international community, China and Japan shoulder more common responsibilities for regional and world peace and development.

Since the normalization of the diplomatic relations, China-Japan relations have gone through ups and downs. The achievements and lessons learned have become a mirror for the future development of bilateral relations. I believe that over the years, China-Japan relations, which have been normalized for 47 years, will become more tenacious and mature in all areas.

Q4. What areas should we focus on in order to improve Japan-China relations?

A: If China-Japan relations are to be compared to a car, it needs "four-wheel drive" to be more dynamic. Politically, we need to constantly increase mutual trust and properly manage differences and disagreements. On the economic front, we need to upgrade our practical cooperation in all areas. In the people-to-people exchanges, we need to further strengthen interaction and exchanges, especially among young people. This year is the China-Japan Youth Exchange Promotion Year, and the two sides will carry out 30,000 youth exchange visits in five years. In terms of security, we need to build a constructive security relationship and incorporate the political consensus in the fourth political document between China and Japan that we regard each other as cooperative partners rather than threats into actual policies.

Q5: During the continuous improvement of Japan-China relations, the two countries still have differences on the issues concerning the East China Sea, the South China Sea and history. How to overcome them? How to establish Japan-China relations that will not go backwards?

A: As neighboring countries, it is normal for China and Japan to encounter various problems in the development of bilateral relations. However, since the normalization of diplomatic relations 47 years ago, differences and contradictions have never been the mainstream, let alone the whole of China-Japan relations. The key is that both sides should always grasp the general direction of peace and friendship, look at and deal with contradictions and differences from the overall situation so as to prevent China-Japan relations from deviating from the right track.

The four political documents of China and Japan is the important political basis for the sound development of bilateral relations. As long as the two sides keep the promises, always abide by the principles and related commitments established in the four political documents, achieve mutual benefit and win-win results through friendly cooperation, and control differences by communication and dialogue, we can constantly promote healthy and sustainable development of China-Japan relations in the right direction.

Q6: Some people think that the improvement of Japan-China relations is brought about by China-US trade frictions. What do you think of it? What role do you think Japan can play in China-US trade frictions? Some people worry that if China-US relations turn around, China may be more demanding on Japan. How do you view this concern?

A: The Chinese side always attaches importance to China-Japan relations and is willing to keep up with the times and develop good-neighborly friendship and cooperation with Japan. The improvement and development of China-Japan relations is a choice made by the two countries based on their own interests and the common interests of the two countries, which is also conducive to regional and world peace and development.

Both China and Japan are beneficiaries of the international free trade system. China and Japan have the responsibility to work together to maintain an open world economy and a free trade system.

The idea that setting China, Japan and the US against each other is entirely a zero-sum game and a cold war mentality, which the Chinese side cannot agree. The mutual development of friendly relations among the three countries can be paralleled, which is welcomed by the region and the world at large.

Q7: What are the key areas of Japan-China economic cooperation? What expectations does China have for Japan's participation in Belt and Road cooperation? In order to maintain the stable development of the world economy, what role should the G20 play? How do you view the roles of Japan and China in the world economy? What considerations does the Chinese side have for the cooperation between the two countries on issues such as the WTO reform?

A: China-Japan economic and trade relations are one of the most closely-related, complementary, and mutually-beneficial bilateral economic relations. The two sides can further develop new ideas, tap into potential, and strengthen cooperation in key areas such as third-party markets, finance, and scientific and technological innovation, so as to improve and upgrade practical cooperation between China and Japan.

Last month, Mr. Toshihiro Nikai, Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, came to China as the special envoy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to attend the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. President Xi Jinping met with Mr. Toshihiro Nikai and his delegation. We hope that the Japanese side will take it as an opportunity to participate in the Belt and Road cooperation in a more active and clear manner so as to achieve mutual benefit and win-win results and common prosperity.

China and Japan should not only be the "anchor" but also the "propeller" of the world economy. We should actively advocate free trade, jointly safeguard multilateralism, and contribute more to building an open world economy. We should deepen bilateral practical cooperation, continue to promote regional cooperation, make the great Asian market more dynamic, and inject confidence and impetus into global economic development.

The Chinese side always supports the necessary reforms of the WTO and the construction of an open world economy. At the same time, China should pay more attention to development issues, safeguard the legitimate interests of developing countries, and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Chinese and the Japanese sides can strengthen the policy coordination in this regard.

Q8. What is the plan of the Chinese side on people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and Japan?

A: The foundation of China-Japan friendship lies in people. Since the 1950s and 1960s, the Chinese and the Japanese people have held friendly exchange activities in various forms, which played an indispensable role in the normalization of the China-Japan diplomatic relations. Actively carrying out people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and Japan is conducive to promoting bilateral relationship, correctly guiding public to view each other in a more rational and objective way, and creating a favorable social environment for further development of bilateral relations.

This year is the China-Japan Youth Exchange Promotion Year. The two sides should take this opportunity to design and implement exchange activities in line with the characteristics of young people, enhance mutual understanding and expand the social impact of activities, so as to set a good example and bring driving effect for people-to-people and cultural exchanges between the two countries.

China and Japan are discussing a mechanism for people-to-people and cultural exchanges, which will help provide institutional guarantee for people-to-people and cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Q9. What are the changes in the Korean Peninsula situation and China-DPRK relations when you work as Special Representative of the Chinese Government on the Korean Peninsula Affairs? What role will China play in the Korean Peninsula issue? What role of Japan do you expect? How do you see Japan's goal to meet with the DPRK leader without conditions?

A: The Korean Peninsula issue has lasted for a long time, which has made the Peninsula on the verge of war several times. Since last year, the intense confrontation on the Korean Peninsula has turned to moderate dialogue with the joint effort of all parties concerned. The political settlement process of the issue has been restarted with gradual progress. During this process, the relationships between all parties have also been improved. These developments benefit all parties and are welcomed by the international community.

Recently, there have been various discussions and interpretations of the slowing pace of peace talks on the Korean Peninsula. We hold the view that it will take time to completely solve the complicated the Korean Peninsula issue and it is inevitable to face temporary obstacles and difficulties. We should note that the current trend of peace on the Peninsula is not reversed and dialogue and negotiation are still the shared aspiration of all parties, no matter what problems we encounter. The key is to cherish the results that have been achieved by all parties. All parties should meet each other halfway and insist on negotiating for achievements. The Korean Peninsula issue, which is not only about the nuclear, must be solved with a balanced settlement of the reasonable concerns of different parties.

Regarding the Korean Peninsula issue, the Chinese side has been making every effort for a long period, and is always committed to achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, upholding peace and stability on the Peninsula and resolving relevant issues through dialogue and consultation. No matter how the situation changes, the Chinese side will remain committed to our mission and play a positive and constructive role as always to advance the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the political settlement process of the Korean Peninsula issue. The Chinese side will contribute positive energy to the everlasting peace of the region.

Both China and Japan are neighbors of the Peninsula. We support the Japanese and the DPRK sides in enhancing dialogue and communication, addressing the concerns of both sides properly, and creating conditions for the normalization of the Japan-DPRK relations. We hope the Japanese side can play a due constructive role to advance the political settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue.

Q10. As a diplomat, you have rich work experience in Japan, so how do you feel about Japan and Japanese?

A: I have been engaged in diplomatic work for 34 years, and two thirds of my work is for Japan-related affairs. It was in 1980s when I went to Japan for work for the first time. I was impressed by this country with its prosperous economy, harmonious society, and its people who are diligent and serious. As I develop more understanding on Japan, I recognize many similarities between the two countries, such as the geographical features and culture, and people of both countries value the spirit of enterprise and craftsmanship. As current China-Japan relationship is standing at a new point, I hope that China and Japan will build better relations by carrying forward the sound tradition of mutual learning and mutual support, fully leveraging their respective strengths and promoting further cooperation, so as to achieve common prosperity and make more contributions to regional economic integration.

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