Xi and Kishida meet while North Korea launches a missile

Xi and Kishida meet while North Korea launches a missile


Leaders of China and Japan will hold their first face-to-face talks in three years on Thursday after North Korea fired the latest missile attack that has boosted nuclear fears.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is flying in from a G20 meeting in Bali for talks in Bangkok, where US President Joe Biden has urged him to use his influence to curb Pyongyang’s activities.

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

The pair are set to meet on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit focused on the recovery from the pandemic and the global economic turmoil sparked by the war in Ukraine.

Kishida’s office condemned the North’s recent launch, adding to a flurry that began earlier this month, which involved an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Seoul and Washington have warned the North could be preparing to conduct a nuclear test — it would be its seventh.

Biden held a tripartite summit with allies Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Phnom Penh last week to discuss recent drama with the North.

The trio issued a joint statement warning that any new nuclear test would be met with a “strong and determined” response, without giving further details.

After his talks with Xi on Monday, Biden said he was confident China — Pyongyang’s main diplomatic and economic ally — did not want Kim Jong Un’s regime to further escalate tensions.

– Diplomatic Lightning –

China and Japan — the world’s second- and third-largest economies — are key trading partners, but relations have soured as Beijing strengthens its military, regionally projects power and toughens on territorial rivalries.

Chinese missiles fired during massive military exercises around Taiwan in August are believed to have fallen into Japan’s exclusive economic zone, and Tokyo has protested what it describes as mounting air and sea violations in recent months.

Xi last held face-to-face meetings with a Japanese prime minister in December 2019, when he met Shinzo Abe in Beijing, though he had spoken to Kishida over the phone.

The APEC meeting, which will also be attended by French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, caps a diplomatic thunderbolt in Asia following the G20 and ASEAN summits in Cambodia.

The G20 has been stirred by fears that a deadly missile attack on Poland could signal a dangerous escalation in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

But Western leaders have sought to downplay the alarm by saying the blast was likely an accident, with both Poland and NATO saying the blast was most likely caused by a Ukrainian air-defense missile fired to target a Russian one intercept barrage.

Biden and Xi’s landmark summit talks on Monday sought to cool their rivalry, which has sharply intensified in recent years as Beijing has grown more powerful and assertive to replace the US-led order that has reigned since World War II.

The easing will be welcome news for APEC members, who are increasingly concerned at the prospect of having to take sides between the world’s two largest economies.

While the two still bickered over the issue of Taiwan’s future self-government – a major regional flashpoint – they found common ground in Ukraine.

They stressed that using or threatening to use nuclear weapons was unacceptable – a clear rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats over his failed war in Ukraine.

Macron landed in Bangkok late Wednesday aiming to reinvigorate France’s strategic ambitions in the Asia-Pacific region following the humiliating blow from Australia, which canceled a major submarine contract in 2021.

“In this highly competitive region, which is the scene of a confrontation between the two great world powers, our strategy is to defend freedom and sovereignty,” Macron said on Thursday.

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