China accuses US and Japan of sowing division after Biden and Suga vow to counter ‘intimidation’

Beijing has accused the United States and Japan of sowing division after they said they would counter China’s “intimidation” in the Asia-Pacific region and referred to Taiwan in a joint statement for the first time in over 50 years.

US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called for “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” in the statement, after talks at the White House on Friday that also covered the region’s other major flashpoints.

It was the first time that the leaders of the two countries had mentioned Taiwan in a joint statement since 1969. Observers in Beijing said it was Japan’s strongest political challenge to China since ties were normalised in 1972, and could bring relations to their lowest point since then.

The Chinese embassy in the US expressed “strong concern and firm opposition” to the joint statement and vowed that China would resolutely defend its national sovereignty, security and development interests.

“These comments have gone far beyond the scope of normal development of bilateral relations. They are harmful to the interests of a third party, to mutual understanding and trust between regional countries, and to peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific,” an embassy statement said.

“It cannot be more ironic that such attempt of stoking division and building blocs against other countries is put under the banner of ‘free and open’.”

China topped the agenda of Friday’s meeting, Biden’s first face-to-face with a foreign leader since taking office in January.

“We committed to working together to take on the challenges from China, and on issues like the East China Sea, the South China Sea as well as North Korea to ensure a future of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Biden told a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden.

Although no major agreements on China were announced, both sides underscored the importance of “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” in the joint statement released after the meeting. They also expressed “serious concerns regarding the human rights situations” in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Biden and Suga also highlighted their commitment to tackle the risks from North Korea’s nuclear programme, work together on climate change and Covid-19, and invest more in 5G, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, genomics and semiconductor supply chains.

Suga told the press conference: “We agreed to oppose any attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion in the East and South China seas and intimidation of others in the region.”

- South China Morning Post