Friday saw US President Joe Biden meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Washington, during which the two reportedly discussed the “severe security environment” and China’s actions in the Indo-Pacific region, among other topics.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry has warned Japan and the US against meddling in China’s domestic affairs, warning that Beijing will take “all necessary measures to resolutely defend its sovereignty, security, and development interests”.
In a statement on Sunday, the spokesperson accused the two of “actually ganging up to form cliques and fanning bloc confrontation”, adding that “this anachronistic move runs counter to the aspiration for peace, development, and cooperation shared by the overwhelming majority of countries in the region and beyond”.
The statement comes a few days after US President Joe Biden sat down with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Washington to discuss an array of pressing issues, including those related to China’s growing “assertiveness” on the global arena.
During the Friday talks, the two specifically expressed concern over China’s alleged military activity around a group of islands in the East China Sea.
Tokyo-Beijing Row Over East China Sea
Beijing and Tokyo remain embroiled in a longstanding dispute over the status of uninhabited islands in the area, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China and the Senkaku Islands in Japan.
Tokyo maintains it has had sovereignty over them since 1895, while Beijing claims that the islands are marked as a Chinese territory on Japanese maps circa 1783 and 1785.
Following World War II, the islands were controlled by the US and handed over to Japan in 1972. China believes Japan illegally seized them, while Tokyo maintains that Beijing began claiming the islands after the 1970s, when the surrounding water was found to be full of valuable minerals. The tensions escalated after the Japanese government bought three of the islands from a private owner in 2012.
Biden and Suga also voiced alarm about issues pertaining to the South China Sea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, which prompted Beijing to respond by insisting that the Chinese government has “indisputable sovereignty” over Taiwan and the South China Sea islands and that “issues relating to Hong Kong and Xinjiang are purely China’s internal affairs”.
South China Sea Spat
Apart from Beijing, the South China Sea territories are claimed by a host of countries, including the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Despite having no claims to the area, the US is also actively engaged in the dispute, repeatedly sending its military vessels to the South China Sea to fulfill “freedom of navigation” missions.
This causes flak from Beijing who describes such acts as “provocations” and is often involved in holding war games in the area.
Though the US, along with many other countries, does not recognise Taiwan as a sovereign nation and officially sticks to the “One China” policy, Washington has maintained informal relations with the island since severing diplomatic ties with it in 1979.
Beijing, in turn, has repeatedly called Taiwan a sensitive issue in its relations with Washington, as China considers the island to be an essential part of its territory. China is especially uneasy over Taiwan’s cooperation with the US in the defence sector.
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