TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi protested Sunday at a meeting with his Chinese counterpart. arrest of a Japanese citizen in Beijing and raised “great concern” over China’s escalating military activity near Taiwan and around Japan.
Hayashi is on a two-day visit to China, becoming the first diplomat from Japan to make the trip in more than three years as frictions grow between the countries. He also met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and senior diplomat Wang Yi on Sunday.
During his talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, Hayashi demanded the early release of an employee of the Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma, who was detained in Beijing last month for what the Chinese Foreign Ministry described as such as espionage charges. Neither party has offered further details about the man or the allegations against him.
Hayashi told reporters that he raised “serious concern” about the growing assertive maritime activity in the East and South China seas, and stressed the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
He said he also expressed grave concern over Beijing’s increased joint military activity with Russia around Japan as Moscow wages war against Ukraine, and urged China to act responsibly for world peace.
Hayashi said he told Qin that their countries have a chance to enhance cooperation in economic, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, but they also face “many problems and serious concerns” and that “Japan-China relations are currently in an extremely important phase”.
The two ministers agreed to work together to achieve “a constructive and stable relationship” as agreed between their leaders in November, Hayashi said.
The sides agreed to improve communication on regional security and welcomed the establishment of a defense hotline last week and the resumption of defense talks, Hayashi said.
Hayashi said he and Premier Li shared the importance of their bilateral economic ties and that it was crucial that Japanese citizens and companies feel safe to operate in China.
Despite the close economic and trade ties between the two Asian powers, Tokyo and Beijing have been increasingly at odds in recent years, as Japan sees China’s growing influence in the region as a threat to its security and economy.
Meanwhile, Qin warned against Japanese involvement in matters related to Taiwan, the autonomous island China claims as its own, saying Tokyo should not interfere and “undermine China’s sovereignty in any way,” according to a Foreign Ministry statement. Foreign of China.
Using strong language, Qin said that “the Taiwan issue is at the core of China’s core interests and concerns the political foundation of China-Japan relations.”
Japan does not formally recognize Taiwan, but has strong unofficial ties to the island. He has been making statements of concern about regional stability in the Taiwan Strait and has sent several prominent parliamentary delegations to Taipei.
Japan is increasingly concerned about a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan due to its proximity to Japan’s southwestern islands, as well as the disputed islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing, and has beefed up its defenses in recent years.
Japan’s coast guard said in a statement over the weekend that three Chinese coast guard ships had entered Japan-controlled waters around the Senkaku islands, which Beijing calls Diaoyu. A Japanese patrol boat repeatedly demanded they leave while protecting two Japanese fishing boats, the coast guard said.
Qin criticized Japan for its new export controls on semiconductor manufacturing equipment that require companies to obtain permission from the government. The United States has imposed similar measures and Japan acknowledged consulting with Washington on its own regulation.
“The United States once used intimidation tactics to brutally suppress Japan’s semiconductor industry, and now it is repeating the same old tricks against China,” Qin said, urging Japan not to be a pawn of the United States. “One must not do to others what he would not have done to himself.”
Hayashi said the measure is not targeted at any specific country. But it was seen as part of a US-led deal to ensure advanced semiconductor manufacturing remains out of reach for Chinese industry.
The last Japanese foreign minister to visit China was Hayashi’s predecessor, Toshimitsu Motegi, in 2019, just before China imposed strict border controls against the pandemic and other measures.
Wu reported from Taipei, Taiwan.