Chinese and Japanese officials met in northern China amid renewed tensions over Beijing’s military threats against Taiwan and after Tokyo protested China’s firing of missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone during recent military drills.
The meeting Wednesday between senior foreign affairs advisor Yang Jiechi and the head of Japan’s National Security Secretariat, Takeo Akiba, followed China’s cancellation of a meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries after Japan signed on to a statement from the Group of Seven industrialized countries criticizing China’s threatening war games surrounding Taiwan earlier this month.
Japan issued diplomatic protests over China’s firing of missiles into its exclusive economic zone during the drills, which saw Chinese warplanes and navy ships cross the middle zone of the Taiwan Strait that has long been a buffer between the sides.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary. The former Japanese colony has been under Chinese military threat since Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government fled to the island in 1949 as Mao Zedong’s Communist Party seized control of the Chinese mainland.
In his comments to Takeo, Yang said that “the Taiwan question bears on the political foundation of China-Japan relations and the basic trust and good faith between the two countries,” China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.
“Japan should … shape up a right perception of China, pursue a positive, pragmatic and rational China policy, and uphold the right direction of peaceful development,” Xinhua quoted Yang as saying.
China’s nearly two weeks of military exercises surrounding Taiwan followed U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island in defiance of Beijing’s threats.
China announced further drills in response to the visit by another congressional delegation this week, but has not said when or where they will take place.
The exercises appear to have had little impact among Taiwan’s more than 23 million people, who overwhelmingly favor the status quo of de facto independence while maintaining robust economic ties with China.
Takeo met earlier this month with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Washington, during which they “reiterated the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and reinforced their resolve to stand united against Russia’s unjust and unprovoked war on Ukraine and united in support of the Ukrainian people,” the State Department said in a news release.
China’s threats against Taiwan have been likened to Russia’s invasion of its neighbor. Shortly before Moscow dispatched troops in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met in Beijing, where they declared their relationship had “no limits” and Russia supported China’s claim to Taiwan.
Many Chinese also resent Japan over its brutal invasion and occupation of parts of the country during the 1930s and 1940s, sentiments kept alive by Communist Party propaganda.
In an incident reported widely on social media, a Chinese woman wearing a traditional Japanese kimono dress was recently detained by police in the eastern city of Hangzhou for allegedly creating a disturbance. She was reportedly released without charge after writing an apology.
Yang Jiechi has played an important role in China-Japan relations in recent years. Back in 2014, when the relationship was in a deep freeze following then-Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s visit to a controversial shrine for Japanese war dead, Yang and his Japanese counterpart reached a “four point consensus” that allowed for the resumption of regular government-to-government contact.