Japan’s new PM seen balancing US-China ties, despite calls for closer relations with Beijing

Japan’s new PM seen balancing US-China ties, despite calls for closer relations with Beijing

Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appears set to attempt his predecessor’s US-China balancing act when it comes to international relations, despite his ruling party’s secretary general pushing for closer ties with Beijing.

Toshihiro Nikai, who has served as the Liberal Democratic Party’s administrative chief since 2016, has long been an advocate of building bridges with Beijing, analysts say – even as bilateral ties became frayed in the latter years of former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s administration.

Late last week, he spoke at a lecture hosted by Shigeru Ishiba, a fellow party member who ran to replace Abe as prime minister and is also in favour of better China relations.

“The relationship between Japan and China has been through a long winter, but now it is absolutely certain that springtime has arrived,” Nikai said, adding that he hoped “from the bottom of my heart” that Chinese President Xi Jinping would be able to pay a state visit to Japan soon – and that a pact could be signed defining the two countries’ relationship “to achieve world peace and prosperity led by Japan and China together”.