China moves to block stronger Taiwan-Japan ties

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi attends the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Phnom Penh on Thursday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping demonstrated his hardline, no-concession stance on the Taiwan issue Thursday by canceling a prearranged meeting between the foreign ministers of Japan and China.

China is keen to block U.S.-led moves aimed at deepening ties between Taiwan and Japan and reacted sensitively to a statement released by leaders of the Group of Seven nations — including Japan — expressing concern over Beijing’s increasing military pressure on Taipei.

During a regular press conference held on the day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying criticized Japan for having ruled over Taiwan in the past.

“Japan has a historical record of guilt over Taiwan and has no right to speak about related issues,” Hua said. “[Japan] must refrain from blindly following the United States.”

The Chinese Embassy in Japan released a statement Tuesday regarding U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, saying China wants Japan to ensure similar incidents do not occur. Four bipartisan Diet members — including former Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba — visited Taiwan at the end of July.

The Chinese statement is thought to be aimed at driving a wedge between Taiwan-Japan parliamentary and other exchanges, which have advanced substantially.

At the end of last year, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “A Taiwan contingency is a Japan contingency.” As a result, China used diplomatic channels to indicate that it would review its relations with Japan based on Tokyo’s response to such a contingency, according to diplomatic sources.

Xi — expected to seek an unprecedented third term in office at the Communist Party congress in autumn — has made the unification of China and Taiwan one of his major goals, making the Taiwan issue the most important matter for his dignity.

Tokyo and Beijing will this year mark the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations, but Xi has clearly stated that he views the Taiwan issue as being much more important than relations with Japan.