Japan welcomes Biden-Xi meeting’s conflict avoidance outcome

The dialogue between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in their first online meeting was generally welcomed by the Japanese government, with one senior Foreign Ministry official saying it was “a meaningful event to avoid unintentional conflicts.”

China has been stepping up its military pressure on Taiwan, which Beijing has positioned as a “core interest” — a term about issues on which it will not compromise. Tokyo recognizes the Biden-Xi dialogue as an important deterrent against accidental clashes or incidents that could lead to conflicts between the two rivals.

“We’d like to pay attention to how the two leaders will respond to the tension between the United States and China,” Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Japan has, together with the United States, criticized China for proceeding with its naval buildup and increasing tensions in the South and East China seas, and urged Beijing to respect international laws.

At the Japan-U.S. summit in April, the joint statement stipulated “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” The meeting, which was held between Biden and then Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, was the first such meeting since the U.S. president took office in January.

However, there remains a gap between Tokyo and Washington on the economy and human rights issues in China.

The Japanese government has joined the United States and European countries in criticizing China’s human rights issues in Hong Kong and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, but has been cautious about imposing economic sanctions over such issues. Should the U.S- China confrontation become serious, Washington may urge Tokyo to take certain measures that could affect the economy, such as decoupling China from Japan’s supply chains. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida may then be forced to make difficult decisions.