South China Sea: US will 'push back' on behaviour says Blinken
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Anthony Blinken, US Secretary of State, spoke with Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi. The defence secretaries of both nations were part of the virtual meeting.
Japan and the US expressed concern over China’s “ongoing efforts” to “undermine” order and stability in the region as they signed an historic defence pact.
They added that China’s activities presented “political, economic, military and technological challenges to the region and the world”.
This comes as Japan also signed a landmark agreement with Australia to bolster military strength and push back against China’s hold on the Indo-Pacific.
In a joint statement, Japan and the US said they had “resolved to work together to deter and, if necessary, respond to destabilising activities in the region.”
Both nations said they held “serious and ongoing concerns” about human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
Global NGO Human Rights Watch has alleged “the Chinese government is committing crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the northwest region of Xinjiang.”
They claim the Chinese leadership “is responsible for widespread and systematic policies of mass detention, torture, and cultural persecution, among other offences”.
The importance of stability in the South China Sea was also emphasised.
They said they held “strong objections” to China’s “unlawful maritime claims, militarization and coercive activities in the South China Sea”.
Mr Blinken said the new defence pact was a response to increasing military concerns around the world, and it “must not only strengthen the tools we have, but also develop new ones”.
He opened the meeting by saying: “We’re launching a new research and development agreement that will make it easier for our scientists, for our engineers and programme managers to collaborate on emerging defence-related issues, from countering hypersonic threats to advancing space-based capabilities.”
This comes in the wake of reports that North Korea fired a “hypersonic missile” that hit its target successfully, according to its state news agency.
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It also comes off the back of Russian forces amassing on the border with Ukraine, and increasing incursions by Beijing into Taiwanese airspace.
Japan’s Foreign Minister said Tokyo was gearing up to focus on its defence capabilities – something the US is backing.
The Japanese government have also given the green light to record defence spending, with this year marking its tenth consecutive yearly increase.
Daniel Russel, former US diplomat to Asia working with the Asia Society Policy Institute, said the agreement is clearly bilateral based on joint worries.
He added that it is not a pact based on just rhetoric, but one with substance.
He told Reuters: “This is clearly a combined message reflecting a common concern, not a case of US arm-twisting to get Japan to sign onto vague euphemisms.”
Mr Russel added: “In particular, the expression of joint resolve to respond if necessary to destabilising activities comes across as a powerful expression of alliance solidarity and determination.”
Jeffrey Hornung of the Rand Corporation think tank described how the issue of Taiwan could be one of the few that propel Japan to act defensively, or with force.
He said: “There is no coded messaging here.
“China is the challenge and they said as much, then detailed all the ways the alliance is determined to work to counter its destabilising activities.”
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