TOKYO – Japan's new foreign minister said Monday that the international community should encourage China to observe global rules and play fair rather than become a threat.
Koichiro Genba said the Asia-Pacific region is a center of growth but also a source of instability. Tokyo has expressed caution over China's increased military spending and more assertive stance in territorial disputes.
Ties between the two Asian rivals deteriorated to their worst level in years last September when a Chinese fishing trawler collided with Japanese patrol vessels near islands controlled by Japan but claimed by both countries in the East China Sea. Genba acknowledged that Japan's southwestern waters have grown unstable.
"China has overtaken Japan in terms of GDP and is now boosting its self-confidence. In order not to allow China to become a threat, Japan and the rest of the world must make sure China plays fair as part of our common rules and principles," Genba said in an interview with a small group of journalists including The Associated Press.
While growing in military strength and assertiveness, Beijing denies threatening or aspiring to dominate the region, calling such speculation a sign of "Cold War thinking."
Genba, Japan's youngest foreign minister at age 47, took office last Friday as part of new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Cabinet.
He said relations between Japan and China are extremely important and they should be good neighbors. He vowed to achieve "a win-win situation" through a mutually beneficial strategic partnership.
Japan should develop business-centered relations with China, while maintaining its security alliance with the U.S. as the "cornerstone" of its diplomacy, he said.
Genba said Japan should seek to export technology in areas such as high-speed trains, conservation and the environment as a way to continue to grow economically despite its shrinking population and low birthrate.
He said Japan should not abandon its nuclear technology or exports of nuclear plants despite the crisis at the tsunami-devastated Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant and subsequent calls to reduce Japan's reliance on nuclear energy. But he said pending nuclear deals with countries including Vietnam, Turkey and Jordan should be reviewed carefully as the investigation into the accident continues.