US and Japan warn against China’s ‘coercion and destabilising behaviour’
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken blasts Beijing for eroding autonomy in Hong Kong, rights abuses in Xinjiang and violating international law in South China Sea
- Singling out of China at meeting of US and Japanese defence and foreign ministers in Tokyo raises heat ahead of US-China talks in Alaska
US Secretary of State Blinken meets Japanese prime minister Suga to ‘reaffirm US-Japan alliance’
Blinken at the press conference said Washington and Tokyo were united in a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, where countries followed rules and resolved discussions peacefully.
“In particular we will push back if necessary when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way.”
After Quad summit discusses China threat, Beijing says ‘cliques’ drive wedge between countries
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said: “We agreed that China’s actions that do not conform to the existing international order pose various challenges to the Japan-US alliance and the international community.”
Before the release of the joint statement, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian had on Tuesday said that US-Japan exchanges should help facilitate regional peace and stability, and not target or hurt the interests of a third party.
Analysts said the ministers’ remarks were likely to make the meeting in Alaska – to be attended by Blinken and Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi – “difficult”.
They said the decision of the ministers to refer to China by name was highly unusual and therefore likely to anger Beijing, which has repeatedly denounced what it sees as US efforts to foment unrest in the region and interfere in what it regards as its internal affairs.
“The US will go into that meeting having made it very clear that they are standing behind their allies in the region 100 per cent, economically, diplomatically and militarily, and that China’s behaviour has been unacceptable to the US and its allies and friends,” said Stephen Nagy, an associate professor of international relations at Tokyo’s International Christian University.
“But that is going to be a very difficult discussion.
“The statement is very emphatic in regard to China’s behaviour – it is very unusual for any country to be identified by name in an official communique like this,” he said.
“They are saying that China’s assertive behaviour and aggression has only come about under Xi and that under his predecessor, Hu Jintao, this did not happen,” he said. “They are blaming this on Xi and singling him out.”
Washington’s position was calculated to have maximum impact in the lead-up to the Chinese Communist Party’s celebrations of the 100th anniversary of its founding on July 23, said Nagy.
Xi’s narrative surrounding the anniversary was that the party had united the nation and its people, Nagy said, but the growing resistance from other quarters made that a “harder sell,” he said.
“External pressure could potentially cause disruption within the party and, in my view, that could make it more difficult for Xi to avoid resistance,” he said.
Blinken, who will leave for Seoul with Austin on Wednesday, stressed the importance of the US alliance with Japan and South Korea in presenting a united front against the nuclear-armed North.
But not all in Japan, which has had to balance its economic ties with China with its concerns about its military assertiveness, were convinced by the communique.
Echoing the views of conservatives, who believe the US under Biden will adopt a softer tone towards Beijing, international relations professor Yoichi Shimada said he would be looking to see whether the positions taken by both sides would be “backed up by actions”.
Said Shimada, of Fukui Prefectural University: “That is what will matter when the time comes.”
Additional reporting by Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Kyodo