China rebukes Japan for criticising actions in South China Sea

Foreign minister accuses Tokyo of fulfilling a mission issued by the United States to criticise its policies in the disputed waters

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 10:29am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 10:56pm

Japan’s new foreign minister and his Chinese counterpart held their first talks on Monday, with the Chinese envoy voicing disappointment about criticism of Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Taro Kono on the sidelines of an Asean regional bloc meeting in Manila.

Japan had earlier criticised China’s military build-up and reclamation work on islands in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

Wang said Japan appeared to be fulfilling a mission issued by the United States in criticising its actions.

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He said later that China was protesting against a joint statement issued by the US, Australia and Japan calling for a halt to land reclamation and military action in the South China Sea and its compliance with an international arbitration panel that ruled against most of China’s claims to the waters.

“You can take a look at the joint statement issued ... and you can draw your own conclusions,” Wang said.

Foreign ministers from 27 countries attended the Asean regional forum, including Russia, China, Japan and Australia.

Wang added that his talks with Kono were useful as he got to know the new foreign minister better.

“I gradually came to know the true Kono, a Kono who can be dealt with,” said Wang.

Kono is thought to be sympathetic to China. His father was a former foreign minister.

“I wanted to learn his real thinking in his heart and I want to understand what his diplomatic philosophy is, including what he has learned from his experience growing up with his father,” Wang said.

Kono suggested before his meeting with Wang that he would remind Beijing of the importance of the rule of law in dealing with disputes in the South China Sea, where several Asean nations have overlapping territorial claims.

“I will call for demilitarisation in the South China Sea,” he said on Sunday.

The statement from the US, Japan and Australia expressed serious concerns over the long-standing maritime disputes and “voiced their strong opposition to coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions”.

They urged rival claimants in the South China Sea “to refrain from land reclamation, construction of outposts, militarisation of disputed features, and undertaking unilateral actions that cause permanent physical change to the marine environment in areas pending delimitation”.

Kono said at a press conference Monday that Japan supported the US in its activities in the South China Sea to ensure freedom of navigation and in a veiled reference to China, opposed “any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force”.

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He added that “heated discussions” took place about North Korea’s missile tests and South China Sea disputes among the foreign ministers at the Asean forum and most countries believed UN sanctions on Pyongyang should be fully enforced.

He said there was broad support at the forum for pressure to be exerted on North Korea and for the latest UN Security Council sanctions to be fully implemented.

Additional reporting by Reuters, Associated Press