The Japanese Foreign Minister expressed to the Chinese counterpart a concern about human rights in China and Chinese naval intrusions. Hours later, the Chinese warned the Japanese to relations with the United States and positioned aircraft carriers off Taiwan.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi had a 90-minute conversation this Tuesday with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, the first between them since November last year.
Motegi expressed “strong concern” about China’s application of a new maritime safety law that allows the Chinese coastguard to target foreign ships in waters it claims, such as the Senkaku Islands, controlled by Japan, but disputed by the Chinese.
The head of Japanese diplomacy also raised the issue of human rights in China, namely the situation of the Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang – which the United States says is the victim of “genocide” – and the restrictions applied by China to the population in Hong Kong .
Motegi and Wang agreed with international coordination to deal with the coup in Myanmar and the military repression against demonstrators in the Southeast Asian country, and with the need to promote the denuclearization of North Korea.
Wang said he opposed Japan’s interference in China’s internal affairs, such as Xinjiang and Hong Kong, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, cited by the Kyodo agency.
Chinese warning to the Japan-USA rapprochement
The Chinese foreign minister warned Japan not to join the United States against China, on the eve of a summit between Washington and Tokyo. In the conversation with the Japanese counterpart, he said that the two countries must ensure that bilateral relations “are not involved in the so-called confrontation between the great powers”, according to a statement from the Chinese ministry.
Wang added that Beijing “expects Japan, as an independent country, to look at China’s development objectively and rationally, rather than being deceived by some countries that have a biased view against China.”
Japan, an ally of the United States, which has naval and air bases on Japanese soil, shares Washington’s concerns about increasing China’s military capacity and its territorial claims in the adjacent seas.
However, Japan’s commercial and investment interests sometimes restrict its criticism of the neighboring country.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga travels to Washington to meet the President, Joe Biden, on April 16, at the first face-to-face summit of the US leader, since taking office in January.
Biden, in contrast to his predecessor Donald Trump, emphasized rebuilding ties with European and Asian allies, while the U.S. is preparing to compete with a rising China.
After criticism of Taiwan, China starts naval operations with aircraft carriers
Taiwan is another point of potential conflict. Suga said earlier this week that Japan will cooperate with the United States on this issue.
Hours after Japanese criticism, China began naval exercises with an aircraft carrier near Taiwan, aiming to “safeguard Chinese sovereignty”, in an apparent allusion to Beijing’s claim on the autonomous island.
The Chinese Navy said the exercises involving Liaoning, one of its two aircraft carriers, are routine and scheduled annually.
China has increased the threat of taking control of the island militarily with routine exercises and forays into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, with Chinese warplanes.
Naval exercises are aimed at “helping to improve China’s ability to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests”.
Taiwan’s democratically elected government refused to yield to Beijing’s demands to recognize the island as part of Chinese territory.
China operates two aircraft carriers, of which Liaoning, originally acquired from Ukraine, is the first, having operated in combat since at least 2019.
US military officials and observers recently warned of an increase in Chinese threats against Taiwan, which separated from the mainland after the Chinese civil war.
The United States recently agreed to sell warplanes, missiles and other updated defensive equipment to Taiwan and the island is also revitalizing its own Defense industries, including a submarine development program.
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