China warns Japan to not follow suit after US sanctions over Xinjiang, Hong Kong

Eduardo Baptista, South China Morning Post

Posted at Apr 06 2021 01:24 PM

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned Japan against sanctioning China over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, ahead of a high-level meeting between Tokyo and Washington.

Wang and his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, had a 90-minute phone conversation on Monday, an exchange that came at the request of Beijing, according to the Japanese foreign ministry.

Japan’s growing importance in the increasingly tense US-China rivalry is evident in US President Joe Biden’s decision to host Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the White House on April 16, the first visit by a foreign leader since Biden took office. 

In a rare move, the Chinese foreign ministry put out a two-part statement on the phone call between Wang and Motegi. One statement criticised Biden’s recent efforts to coordinate with allies on a joint strategy on China, warning Tokyo to avoid following the US in sanctioning China over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

“If under the guise of multilateralism, countries engage in bloc politics or big power confrontations, or even arbitrarily impose unilateral and illegal sanctions on other countries based on false information, the world will regress to the law of the jungle of right and wrong,” said Wang.

“A certain superpower’s will does not represent the international community; the small number of countries that follow this country do not have the right to monopolise the rules of multilateralism.”

In another statement released on the same day by the Chinese foreign ministry, Wang repeated his jab at the US, urging Japan to not get “carried away” by countries that were biased against China.

“The US and Japan are allies, but similarly, China and Japan have also signed a treaty of peace and friendship so Japan has a responsibility to uphold this treaty,” said Wang.

Beijing’s warning comes as Japan has shown signs of taking an increasingly assertive role in the Indo-Pacific region, which has become a hotspot for US-China tensions due to a range of territorial tensions between China and US allies like Japan and the Philippines.

Motegi and Japan’s defence minister will reportedly have discussions with Germany while Suga is in Washington, a move observers have said shows Tokyo is trying to get more powerful nations to recognise Japan’s sovereignty in the Diaoyu Islands. The Diaoyus are also known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, which controls the chain despite Beijing’s claim to ownership.

A US-Japan meeting last month produced a joint statement where the US stated its commitment to defending the Diaoyu Islands, as well as a rare mention of security in the Taiwan Strait.

The Post previously reported the April 16 meeting between Suga and Biden is also expected to touch upon the topic of Taiwan.

Tension between the People’s Liberation Army and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force in the East China Sea has escalated in recent months following Tokyo repeatedly voicing concerns over China’s new coastguard law.

The law allows China’s quasi-military force to use weapons against foreign ships that Beijing sees as illegally entering its waters.

In his call with Wang, Motegi expressed “strong concerns” about this law, called for Beijing to halt intrusions into the Diaoyu Islands and urged China to address human rights issues in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, according to the Japanese foreign ministry.

The two-part statement put out by the Chinese foreign ministry did not address the coastguard law, merely noting that Wang Yi explained China’s position on “issues like the Diaoyu Islands and the South China Sea”.

Wang also opposed Japan’s criticism of China’s handling of Xinjiang and Hong Kong, according to the statement.

“As a neighbour Japan needs to show at least a modicum of respect towards China’s internal matters,” said Wang.

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