Japan, EU Take on China With Call for Peace in Taiwan Strait

The leaders of Japan and the European Union institutions referred to the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait in a joint statement following a virtual summit, a move indicating their concern over China’s assertive push in regional affairs.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga held a video conference Thursday with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council chief Charles Michel and later issued a statement that also said the leaders remained “seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas,” where Beijing has been projecting its naval might.

“We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues,” according to the statement. The reference to Taiwan was the first in a statement from the leaders, the Yomiuri newspaper reported Thursday, citing several unidentified Japanese government sources.

It follows similar wording in a joint statement issued after Suga met U.S. President Joe Biden last month, which sparked criticism from Beijing.

Japan, EU Take on China With Call for Peace in Taiwan Strait

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory, and tensions between the two have worsened in recent months as Chinese military forces ratcheted up exercises in the area, raising the risk of a conflict that could draw in the U.S.

The meeting comes as several European countries seek more involvement in the security of the Asia-Pacific region, a key to global economic growth. French troops took part in an exercise with Japan and the U.S. on Japanese soil for the first time earlier this month, while Germany is expected to deploy a frigate to Asia later in the year.

The U.K. is also sending its new aircraft carrier, the Queen Elizabeth, on a tour including stops in Japan and South Korea, as part of its maiden voyage.

Although the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan, it views control over the island as essential to completing its goal of reversing China’s “century of humiliation” by colonial powers. President Xi Jinping has shown an increased willingness to assert such sovereignty claims from the South China Sea to the Himalayan Plateau and Hong Kong, where China has cracked down on opposition and imposed strict security laws following pro-democracy protests.

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