Will they or won't they? That's one of the questions hanging over this weekend's APEC summit in respect of a possible meeting between the Chinese and Japanese leaders here in Yokohama.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said that the ball is in China's court over whether there's going to be a bilateral meeting with Hu Jintao, but speaking ahead of the G-20 summit taking place today and tomorrow in Seoul, Reuters reported that he added: 'Through these two meetings, I think it is desirable for China to make it clear that it is a country that carries out its responsibilities within international rules.'
The prospects for a meeting taking place certainly didn't look great earlier this week, with both the Chinese and Russian finance ministers deciding to skip the APEC finance ministers meeting in Kyoto (Russia has decided to pile the pressure on Kan through President Dmitry Medvedev's decision to visit the disputed Kunashiri island).
The Chinese move was something of a blow to Japan, which had hoped to use the meeting to reaffirm its economic engagement with China. The two countries hold the largest foreign exchange reserves, while bilateral trade between them was ¥12.6 trillion ($153 billion) in the first six months of this year.
As I've said before, it's hard to see what such snubs achieve, and it does no good for Asia's two leading powers not to be talking (just as it did none when China cut off high-level military contacts with the United States earlier this year when it followed through with arms sales to Taiwan). Such actions only make China look, frankly, petulant.
All this said, China is apparently not content with unsettled ties with Japan, Vietnam and India and now appears to be trying to annoy Seoul by pressuring it not to send a representative to Norway next month to attend a ceremony honouring Nobel peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.
According to the JoongAng Daily, a diplomatic source said: ‘After requesting Japan and European countries not to send a government delegate to the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony for Liu Xiaobo to be held in Oslo on Dec. 10, China requested the same thing from Korea through diplomatic channels.’