New foreign minister Yoko Kamikawa says Japan must engage with China

Newly appointed Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said Thursday that it is important for Japan to maintain frank dialogue with China to improve the strained ties between the Asian powers.

At her first press conference after Wednesday’s Cabinet reshuffle in which she was named successor to Yoshimasa Hayashi, Kamikawa pledged to build “constructive and stable” ties with Beijing as a “consistent policy” of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government.

“Japan and China are facing many challenges and matters of concern, but it is important for Japan to say what we should say, call on China to act responsibly, engage in dialogue and work together on common challenges,” the 70-year-old said.

Kamikawa assumed the post at a critical time when Japan-China relations are strained by the dispute over the release of treated radioactive wastewater from the now-defunct Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan into the Pacific Ocean, which started on Aug. 24.

The neighbors have also been at odds over issues including the Tokyo-controlled, Beijing-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, and China’s intensifying joint military activities with Russia near Japan amid the war in Ukraine.

As for Russia, Kamikawa criticized its invasion of Ukraine and vowed to maintain severe economic sanctions on Moscow in line with other Group of Seven members and the international community.

Meanwhile, she said Japan will “appropriately address” matters that Tokyo and Moscow should deal with as neighbors, such as fishing quotas, “from the perspective of what will contribute to our national interests.”

Kamikawa also said she will show “Japan’s presence” at the ongoing annual session of the U.N. General Assembly and other meetings on the sidelines in New York, where she is expected to visit next week to make her international debut as Japan’s top diplomat.