Chinese FM’s call ‘timely reminder’ for Japan at crossroads: observer
Ball in Tokyo’s court to improve relations with Beijing: experts
Published: Apr 06, 2021 08:45 PM
Wang Yi File photo

Wang Yi File photo

 During the time when a slew of hostile moves and statements from Japan has pushed its relations with Beijing to a new crossroads, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's 90-minute phone call with his Japanese counterpart was called by observers a "timely reminder" for Tokyo to stop heading in the wrong direction by ganging up with a "certain superpower," and that Tokyo should pull bilateral ties to the right track.

The unusually strong message from Wang, who was Chinese Ambassador to Japan from 2004 to 2007, also presented China's diplomatic bottom line to Japan, and sends a deterrent to Tokyo and any other country which is eyeing to collude with Japan to counter China, or threaten regional stability, said observers, noting that China has done what it can to fix bilateral ties; now the ball is in Japan's court.  

China hopes that Japan, as an independent country, will come to view China's development in an objective and rational way, instead of being misled by some countries that are biased against China, Wang said during a phone call with Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi on Monday.

Reiterating Beijing's stance on the Diaoyu Islands and South China Sea, Wang expressed opposition to Tokyo for meddling in China's affairs on Xinjiang and Hong Kong. "We urged Japan to abide by basic norms of international relations," Wang Yi said, warning that Tokyo should not "have stretched its hands for too long."

Wang's remarks came after bilateral ties soured by Japan's intense hobnobbing with the US recently; and after Japan laid groundless accusations against and interference in China's domestic affairs, such as Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Japan and the US are allies, "but China and Japan have signed the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which Japan is also obligated to honor," Wang warned the Japanese foreign minister in the call.

And this was not the first time China sent warning signals to Japan. On March 17, one day after the US-Japan "2+2" meeting between their chief diplomats and defense chiefs, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that "Japan, driven by the selfish aim to check China's revitalization, willingly stoops to acting as a strategic vassal of the US, going so far as to break faith, harm relations with China, invite the wolf into the house, and betray the collective interests of the whole region. Such despicable behavior is deeply unpopular."

Wang Jian, an expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, described the phone call between the foreign ministers of the two countries "timely." He told the Global Times on Tuesday that it is to present China's diplomatic bottom line with Japan, and to send a clear warning to Japan and US colluding against China.

Washington is clearly the biggest influence in meddling in China-Japan ties. "The US doesn't want ties between China and Japan to get better, and Japan is accommodating itself with the US on the latter's China policy," said Wang Jian, who warned Tokyo that such a move will eventually backfire.

"We don't want China-Japan relations to hit bottom, nor for Tokyo to tie itself completely with the US. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he wants stable ties with China, but where is his action?" Wang Jian asked.

"A stable relationship between the two countries is important not only for Japan and China but also for the region and the international community," Suga told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a meeting at the end of Wang Yi's two-day visit to Japan in November 2020, two months after Suga became the new Japanese prime minister, according to Reuters. 

Before his scheduled meeting with US President Joe Biden next week, Suga has voiced out his "concern" over cross-Taiwan Straits relations. "It is important for Japan and the US to cooperate and use deterrence to create an environment where Taiwan and China can find a peaceful solution," Suga said on a television talk show Sunday. 

Citing multiple government sources, Japan's Kyodo News reported in March that Japanese and US defense chiefs agreed in their "2+2" meeting on March 16 to closely cooperate in the event of a military clash between the Chinese mainland and the island of Taiwan.

There was no discussion on how the two countries should coordinate their response to such an emergency, said the news agency.

China-Japan ties will spiral downward sharply if Japan gets involved in the Taiwan question, as it is the bottom line question, and any foreign military interference will invite the fiercest retaliation from China, experts warned.

An aircraft carrier task group of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy led by the Liaoning, accompanied by a Type 055 large destroyer for the first time and others in a cross-sea area exercise, on Saturday sailed through the Miyako Strait into the Pacific Ocean, starting regular exercises near the island of Taiwan. 

Chinese military analysts said one purpose of the drill is targeted at US provocation, while another purpose is to control and seal off foreign intervention, since the US and Japan could send reinforcements from the east. 

Analysts said that by deploying a carrier task group there supported by land-based aviation forces and the Rocket Force, the PLA can cut off the potential connection between Taiwan secessionists and foreign forces.

Lured by a recent statement from Washington and Tokyo, Taiwan secessionists are forming the delusion that countries like the US and Japan support them. The PLA is showing that it can not only crack down on Taiwan secessionists, but also make foreign interfering forces suffer the consequences, said the above-mentioned military expert.

Japan is in urgent need to form independent diplomatic policies, and acting as a US pawn in containing China in the Asia-Pacific is also a disgrace for Japan, a big power in this region, Li Haidong, a professor at Institute of International Relations, China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga greeted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Photo: AFP

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga greeted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Photo: AFP

Regional stability saboteur 

Apart from the US, Japan has also been strengthening military ties with other extra-territorial countries. A British aircraft carrier will take part in joint exercises with the US and Japan later this year. The foreign and defense ministers of Japan and Germany are also looking to hold a "two plus two" dialogue online in mid-April, Japanese media Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Monday.

The talks are expected to discuss ways to defend a "free and open Indo-Pacific" in the face of an increasingly assertive China, the report said, citing multiple unidentified sources.

"Japan's current policy toward China has fully exposed its destructive role that threatens regional stability," Li further explained, noting that opening doors for NATO countries to the Asia-Pacific region has increased instability in this region, something countries in this region don't want to see. 

"The will of a certain superpower does not represent the international community," Wang Yi told Motegi, noting that the small number of countries that follow this country do not have the right to monopolize the rules of multilateralism. 

Wang Yi's words also aim to ask Japan not to forget its identity as an Asia country, and urged it to play a constructive role in maintaining stability in this region, instead of inviting the wolves into the house, according to Li. 

China's signal is not only aimed at Japan, but also at countries which are leaning or thinking about colluding with Japan to counter China's rise, Da Zhigang, director and research fellow of Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

If Japan continues down the hostile road, turning a blind eye to pragmatic cooperation between the two countries, ignoring China's rising regional impact and unstoppable trend of developing, Japan's foreign policy will turn out to be shortsighted. 

During the call, Wang Yi said he hopes the two sides take the opportunity of the China-Japan Cultural and Sports Exchange Promotion Year in 2021 and 2022, and next year's 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between China and Japan, to improve the national feelings of the two countries, and bring a stable and healthy China-Japan relationship into the next 50 years.

China has done its utmost to fix ties, and send the greatest goodwill. Ties have hit a new crossroads, and how to elevate the relations is entirely Japan's job, said Wang Jian.