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China and Japan Agree to Try to Resolve Fukushima Water Dispute Through Dialogue

Kishida-Xi meeting in Bangkok

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to seek a resolution through dialogue to a dispute over the discharge of treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant, Kishida told reporters.

“I urged that this be dealt with calmly on a scientific basis,” Kishida said after his first formal meeting with Xi in a year. “We will hold discussions based on science at an expert level,” he added. He described the summit as “very meaningful.”

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Read More: Japan Is Releasing Wastewater Into the Pacific: What to Know About Radioactivity and Seafood

The meeting in San Francisco on Thursday comes a day after Joe Biden hailed an improvement in U.S. relations with China following his own talks with Xi. The warmer tone helped open the way for U.S. ally Japan to pursue its efforts to shore up ties with its biggest trade partner.

The Asian neighbors have been wrangling over everything from semiconductors to nuclear waste and the fate of Japanese citizens detained in China. A territorial dispute over uninhabited islands near Taiwan continues to simmer.

Kishida said he urged Xi to end a ban on imports of Japanese seafood, imposed by China in response to Japan’s ocean discharge of wastewater from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said the discharge is safe.

Read More: China’s Concern About Nuclear Wastewater May Be More About Politics Than Science

The wastewater issue has hurt sales in China for Japanese companies including cosmetics-maker Shiseido Co., which slashed its profit forecast last week. It has also been a factor in turning the Japanese public their most negative on China since 2014, according to a poll published last month. 

Xi told Kishida at the start of the meeting that the two countries should focus on common interests, properly handle differences and re-confirm their strategic reciprocal relationship, state broadcaster China Central Television reported.

“I want to work with you to create a brighter future for Japan-China ties for the sake of the next generation,” Kishida responded.

During the meeting, Kishida expressed concern about the situation in the East China Sea, where government ships from both nations patrol waters around a chain of uninhabited islands claimed by both countries. The Japanese premier also called on Xi to remove a buoy placed in what Japan sees as its exclusive economic zone.

Read More: Prime Minister Fumio Kishida Is Giving a Once Pacifist Japan a More Assertive Role on the Global Stage

Tokyo last year dubbed its neighbor an “unprecedented security challenge” and is planning its biggest military buildup since World War II, a stance that has riled Beijing.

Since then, Japan has faced Chinese recriminations for following the lead of the U.S. in strengthening the regulation of chip-related exports to China. Japan and China agreed at ministerial talks this week to establish an export controls dialogue, China’s commerce ministry announced.

Kishida also called for the release of Japanese citizens being held in China, calling for the individuals to be returned and legal processes made transparent. China has defended its moves as part of the protection of its national security.

One man in his 50s had a 12-year sentence confirmed this month, while an employee of drugmaker Astellas Pharma Inc, also in his 50s, was indicted in October after being detained earlier in the year. Details of the allegations haven’t been made public.

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