U.S. Envoy Discusses Taiwan in Tokyo, Prompting Chinese Anger

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman discussed preserving peace in the Taiwan Strait with her Japanese and South Korean counterparts, prompting China to accuse Tokyo and Washington of forging confrontational blocs.

Sherman told reporters Wednesday in Tokyo that the trilateral talks also covered combined efforts to promote peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and around the world, based on shared values including freedom, human rights, and respecting the rule of law. The rebuke from Beijing clouded prospects that Sherman might meet Chinese officials during her trip.

“Whether it is issues related to Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Xinjiang, these are all China’s internal affairs and brook no foreign interference,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said after Sherman’s talks in Tokyo. “The U.S. and Japan have been adhering to a Cold War mentality, deliberately foster confrontation by creating blocs, and trying to create anti-China encirclement.”

Zhao did not refer to South Korea in his comments. Sherman held talks with Takeo Mori, Japan’s vice-minister for foreign affairs, and Choi Jong-kun, South Korea’s first vice-minister of foreign affairs.

Sherman said she had no updates to the itinerary of her trip, which doesn’t so far include a stop in China. The State Department’s No. 2 official had been discussing a possible meeting with a senior Chinese diplomat in the northern port of Tianjin as a possible precursor to higher-level U.S.-China exchanges, the South China Morning Post reported last week, citing people it didn’t identify.

“We’ve been clear we will engage when it is in our interests, and will do so in a practical, substantive and direct manner -- that remains the case,” Sherman said. “If we have updates to my travel, we will be sure to share them. And you will certainly know.” Zhao said he had no information on any visit by Sherman.

U.S. Envoy Discusses Taiwan in Tokyo, Prompting Chinese Anger

The three also discussed the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program, freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where Beijing has been moving aggressively, and deepening cooperation among their three countries.

The meeting came just days after President Moon Jae-in called off a possible trip to Tokyo for the Friday start of the Olympics in the wake of a Japanese diplomat making contentious comments about the policies of the South Korean president.

The latest rift between the countries that host the bulk of U.S. troops in Asia shows the difficulties President Joe Biden faces in working with the two nations, who are key to securing supply chains in the U.S.’s wider strategic fight against China. Biden has also sought their help as he undertakes a new strategy to end North Korea’s nuclear program, which he has called a serious threat to the U.S. and the world.

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory and hasn’t ruled out the use of force in the pursuit of unification. Earlier this month, President Xi Jinping called his country’s quest to gain control of Taiwan a “historic mission” in a speech marking the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party.

Taiwan’s government ratcheted up tensions when it said Tuesday it would set up its first office in Europe using the name “Taiwan,” drawing a rebuke from China and praise from the U.S., as Taipei seeks to strengthen its diplomatic presence around the globe in the face of pressure from Beijing.

Sherman also reminded North Korea that the Biden administration is ready for talks, adding patience is needed with Pyongyang, but there were limits. Leader Kim Jong Un’s regime has rebuffed Biden’s attempts to revive dormant nuclear disarmament discussions, with Kim Yo Jong, the leader’s sister saying last month, the U.S. has “wrong” views in thinking North Korea might be offering an opening to return to talks.

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