The leaders of Japan and EU institutions yesterday referred to the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait in a joint statement following a virtual summit, a move indicating their concern over China’s assertive push in regional affairs.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga held a videoconference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel, before issuing a statement saying that the leaders remained “seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas,” where Beijing has been projecting its naval might.
“We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues,” the statement said.
The reference to Taiwan was the first in a statement from the leaders, the daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported yesterday, citing several unidentified Japanese government sources.
It follows similar wording in a joint statement issued after Suga met US President Joe Biden last month, which sparked criticism from Beijing.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said it welcomed the Japan-EU joint statement, despite the lack of formal ties.
The Japanese government has repeatedly said that Japan and Taiwan share similar values in freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and that Taiwan is an important partner and friend of Japan, ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said in a statement.
The government would continue to work with Japan, the EU and other like-minded partners to defend democracy and a rules-based international order and to maintain the peace, stability and prosperity across the Taiwan Strait and in the Indo-Pacific region, she said.
Tensions between Taiwan and China have worsened in the past few months, as Chinese military forces ratcheted up exercises in the area, raising the risk of a conflict that could draw in the US.
The meeting came as several European countries seek more involvement in the security of the Asia-Pacific region, a key to global economic growth.
French troops took part in an exercise with Japan and the US on Japanese soil for the first time earlier this month, while Germany is expected to deploy a frigate to Asia later in the year.
The UK is also sending its new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, on a tour including stops in Japan and South Korea, as part of its maiden voyage.
Although the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan, it views control of the nation as essential to completing its goal of reversing China’s “century of humiliation” by colonial powers.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has shown an increased willingness to assert sovereignty claims from the South China Sea to the Himalayan Plateau and Hong Kong.
Additional reporting by Lin Chia-nan
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