Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura in his press briefing* after the Friday Cabinet meeting made it official; the Diet willing, Prime Minister Fukuda will travel to China between 27-30 December. That’s a four day visit. The purpose? To “conduct a frank** exchange of opinions on prospects for Japan-China relations, issues of concern such as resource development in the East China Sea, problems such as the denuclearization of North Korea, and counter climate-change measures, these issues concerning the region as a whole, international society as a whole.” This does not sound like a Chief Cabinet Secretary who is harboring hopes of brokering a deal on the off-shore gas fields during Mr. Fukuda’s visit. It looks increasingly like Foreign Minister Kōmura oversold his earlier trip to the press in indicating that the two Foreign Ministers had agreed on 1 December to solve the problem by Mr. Fukuda’s visit to China and the other Chinese principals were on board.
If you’re wondering why the Chinese leadership is willing to entertain visitors at that time of year, remember that China lives under the Lunar Calendar and its New Year’s Holidays won’t be rolling around for some time. This time of the year is not a big deal for them. In fact, it’s the government of Japan and its bureaucrats that are being more accommodating, since half the nation goes on leave this weekend, and the rest officially shuts down on the 28th.
* It’s available here, in case you want to read the real thing.
** “Frank”and “candid” are fighting words in diplomatese, but the Japanese analog “率直” does not necessarily connote negativity.