China and Japan are holding their first security talks in four years

By Sakura Murakami

TOKYO (Reuters) – China said it was concerned about Japan’s military buildup, and Tokyo on Wednesday targeted Beijing’s military ties with Russia and alleged use of spy balloons in the Asian powers’ first formal security talks in four years.

The talks, aimed at easing tensions between the world’s second and third-largest economies, came as Tokyo feared Beijing would use force to take control of Taiwan after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, sparking a conflict would trigger that could involve Japan and disrupt world trade.

Japan said in December it would double defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product — a total of $320 billion — over the next five years to discourage China from resorting to military action. Beijing, which increased its defense spending by 7.1% last year, spends more than four times as much as Japan on its armed forces.

Tokyo plans to acquire longer-range missiles that could hit mainland China and stock up on other munitions it would need to sustain a conflict alongside the large US force it hosts.

“The international security situation has changed a lot and we are seeing the return of unilateralism, protectionism and a Cold War mentality,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong said at the start of the meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Shigeo Yamada.

In the current complex and volatile international and regional situation, the meaning of Sino-Japan relations has not changed and will not change, Sun said during the meeting, according to a statement by China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday.

China and Japan should “handle differences appropriately” to ensure that the relationship “does not stagnate, does not veer off course, does not fall behind and steadily moves on the right track,” he told Yamada.

Sun said Taiwan is among the important issues related to the basic trust between the two countries, and hopes Japan can “learn from history, be consistent, uphold the path of peaceful development and the ‘One China’ principle.” .

Sun left Japan’s foreign ministry after the meeting, saying they also discussed Japan’s dumping of wastewater from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific and “unlocking” industrial supply chains. He did not give details.

China is Japan’s largest trading partner, accounting for about a fifth of its exports and almost a quarter of its imports. It is also an important manufacturing base for Japanese companies.

“While Japan-China relations offer many opportunities, we also face many problems and concerns,” Yamada told the Sun.

He pointed to their territorial dispute over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, Beijing’s recent joint military exercises with Moscow, and the suspected Chinese surveillance balloons that have been sighted over Japan at least three times since 2019 .

After the United States shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon last week, Japan said it plans to clarify military rules of engagement so its jet fighters can shoot down unmanned aircraft violating its airspace.

In a statement after the meeting, Japan’s foreign ministry said it also stressed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

The two countries have agreed to set up a direct communication hotline “around spring” and strengthen dialogue between their senior security officials, she added.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Writing by Tim Kelly; Editing by Stephen Coates, Kim Coghill, and Raissa Kasolowsky)


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