Japan urges China to calm situation in Hong Kong

21, Aug. 2019

20190821_0002.jpg

By Mina Kotani

BEIJING, Kyodo - Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Tuesday urged his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to help restore calm in Hong Kong in a peaceful manner, expressing “great concern” about the fragile situation there.

“We hope for a peaceful resolution,” Kono told reporters after meeting with Wang, a day ahead of a three-way gathering with South Korea in Beijing, adding that the safety of over 20,000 Japanese residing in Hong Kong must be protected.

Despite China's firm stance that Hong Kong matters are purely a Chinese internal affair, some representatives of foreign governments have raised concerns over possible human rights violations by local authorities in suppressing protesters.

Large-scale demonstrations have continued for months over an extradition bill that would enable the transfer of fugitives to mainland China. The bill, now suspended but not withdrawn, could bolster the influence of communist China and erode liberties in the former British colony, critics say.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned China that if it violently intervenes to end the protests, as it did during the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, bilateral trade talks would be hampered.

The Chinese leadership led by President Xi Jinping has stationed the People's Armed Police Force, a paramilitary force, in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, with armored vehicles seen gathering in recent days at a stadium.

“It is important to resolve the problem through dialogue,” Kono said.

As for bilateral issues, Kono said he agreed with Wang to step up efforts to prepare for Xi's planned state visit to Japan next spring, further strengthening their agreement in early August in Bangkok.

Their talks at a resort area in the Chinese capital also covered possible fields of cooperation including joint development of resources near the disputed Senkaku Islands, with Kono telling Wang “a real solution is needed” in order to deepen Sino-Japanese ties.

Talks on a bilateral treaty to facilitate joint development of the gas resources have been suspended since September 2010, when a Chinese fishing boat rammed a Japanese Coast Guard ship in waters near the islands.

The Senkakus, called Diaoyu in China, are a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea that are controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.

Kono and Wang also discussed regional issues such as North Korea, which has repeatedly launched what appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles off its coast since July 25, to protest a 16-day South Korea-U.S. joint military drill that ended earlier Tuesday.

Senior Japanese officials labeled the launches “grave threats and a serious matter to our country,” while China has continued to urge all parties to engage in dialogue.

On Wednesday, Wang, Kono and their South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung Wha will also likely discuss North Korea, in what will be the first three-way meeting since August 2016.

Their talks are set to take place as Japan and South Korea have sunk to the lowest in years due to disputes over wartime history and trade policy. Kono and Kang met in early August in the Thai capital but failed to resolve the bilateral spat.

The trilateral meeting comes after diplomatic sources said that the foreign ministers would coordinate the schedule for their leaders' summit chaired by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in December. (Kyodo)