China warned Japan against teaming up with the United States to counter Beijing, ahead of a high-level meeting between Tokyo and Washington next week.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi, had a 90-minute phone conversation on Monday evening. The exchange took place at the request of Beijing, according to the Japanese foreign ministry.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement quoted Wang as saying that their two countries should ensure that bilateral relations “do not get involved in the so-called confrontation between major countries.”
“China hopes that Japan, as an independent country, will look at China’s development in an objective and rational way, instead of being misled by some countries holding biased views against China,” it added.
The growing importance of Japan in the rising rivalry of US-China is evident in US President Joe Biden’s decision to host the Japanese Prime Minister at the White House on 16 April.
PM Yoshihide Suga is scheduled to travel to Washington to meet President Biden in what will be the U.S. leader’s first in-person summit since taking office in January.
Unlike his predecessor Donald Trump, Biden insisted on rebuilding relations with European and Asian allies as Washington prepares to compete with rising China.
According to a previous report, the April 16 meeting between Suga and Biden is also expected to discuss the topic of Taiwan. In a gesture to the US and its allies, Beijing recently sent an aircraft carrier group to waters near Taiwan for training drills.
Taiwan is another potential flashpoint, with Mr Suga saying earlier this week that Japan would cooperate with the US on the issue. China considers the autonomous island a fugitive province which should be under Chinese rule.
Motegi raised human rights in Xinjiang region of China and Hong Kong, both important issues for Biden. Suga and Biden are expected to meet later this month to discuss human rights in China.
Mr Yi opposed Japan’s interference in China’s internal affairs in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, the Chinese statement said.
Japan-a major ally to Washington that hosts major US naval and air force bases- shares American concerns about China’s military build-up its claims to territory in the South and East China Sea.
However, its major trade and investment interests in China have at times re-emerged in condemnation of its larger neighbour.
Rift between the People’s Liberation Army and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force in the East China sea has widened in recent months after Tokyo repeated concerns over China’s New coastguard law. The law allows China’s quasi-military force to use weapons against foreign ships that it sees as trespassing its waters.
In his call with Wang, Motegi expressed “strong concerns” regarding this law and called for China to stop intrusions into the Diaoyu Islands. The Diaoyus are also known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan.
Motegi and Japan’s defense minister will reportedly hold discussions with Germany, while Suga is in the US. According to observers, this move shows Tokyo is trying to get more powerful countries to recognise Japan’s sovereignty in the Diaoyu Islands.