The US and Japan issued a joint statement on Friday voicing their shared values of democracy and human rights. They also raised concerns about China’s activities in the Indo-Pacific region – which have become increasingly aggressive in recent years.
And – for the first time since 1969 – Japan joined the US in speaking out about the importance of “peace and stability” in the Taiwan Strait.
This prompted Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng to launch a furious counterassault during an interview with the Associated Press (AP) hours later.
He branded the show of alliance during talks between President Joe Biden and Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as an “ironic attempt of stoking division.”
And addressing the contentious issue of Taiwan – which the communist superpower claims sovereignty over – he said: “The US should never try to play the Taiwan card.
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“We are prepared to do everything we can for a peaceful reunification. That said, we don’t pledge to give up other options. No option is excluded.”
“The Taiwan question bears on China’s core interests. There is simply no room for compromise.
“China will never let Taiwan become independent and is firmly committed to safeguarding national sovereignty and security and promoting national reunification.”
While mindful of China’s increasing influence in the area – Japan has traditionally stayed away from commenting on Taiwan.
The island – is situated just off China’s coast – is officially called the Republic of China and still technically claims sovereignty over the whole of China.
Its government was created following the Chinese civil war by the nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek after he lost the mainland war to the People’s Republic of China and its communist regime led by Chairman Mao.
The PRC has claimed sovereignty ever since – and after becoming a world power has increasingly flexed its muscles.
These actions, combined with a crackdown in Hong Kong along with human rights violations in human rights in Tibet and the Xinjiang region, have worried Japan, South Korea and their western allies.
But China has pressed on regardless.
In January, it warned Taiwan that any attempt to seek independence “means war”.
US President Joe Biden later reaffirmed his commitment to Taiwan, and branded the outburst “unfortunate”.