Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said his government will "properly respond to" individual cooperation programs related to the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.
Abe made the remarks on Wednesday when meeting with Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and Yoshihisa Inoue of junior coalition partner Komeito to talk through Japan's strategy on the initiative.
Inoue suggested to Abe that Japan should not miss the current opportunities to improve Sino-Japanese relations and should try to realize exchanges of high-level visits between China and Japan, according to Japan's Kyodo News.
Japan newspaper The Nikkei said Nikai and Inoue brought Abe various recommendations put forth at a regular meeting of Japan's party leaders and officials from the Communist Party of China held in December, urging him to use China's Fujian province as a testing ground for cooperation between Japan and China in the Belt and Road Initiative.
The Nikkei also said that Japanese companies working with Chinese peers on B&R projects should "meet certain criteria" .
The newspaper said Tokyo requires that "operations must be transparent and profitable, and the projects cannot harm the finances of countries that take on debt to pay for them. Nor can projects be readily convertible for military use."
Lyu Yaodong, a researcher of Japanese foreign policy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Abe's interest in the Belt and Road Initiative "only stays in remarks" so far.
"No formal proposal of joining the initiative nor signals of any further actions has been formed within the Japanese administration at present," Lyu said, adding that Abe's "conditional" remarks are aimed at maximizing Japanese profit rather than looking for cooperation.
"It is too early to say whether Japan will really join the initiative, or just leave remarks to ease relations."
Meanwhile, Tang Shiqi, deputy dean of School of International Studies at Peking University, said Abe's recent positive remarks regarding the initiative reflects Japan's willingness to improve relations with China as well as recognizing the importance of the initiative.
The plan, proposed by China in 2013, aims to build connectivity among Asian, African and European countries in infrastructure, policies, trade, financing and people-to-people exchange.
Since the second half of 2017, Abe has signaled his willingness to improve the Sino-Japanese relationship on a number of occasions.
Earlier this month, he expressed his will to improve relations with China at a New Year celebration event organized by Jiji Press in Tokyo.
He said: "I want to make this year one when people in both countries are able to recognize a major improvement in Sino-Japanese relations."