Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi scolds G-7 counterparts over Taiwan statement

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh, on Aug 4, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

PHNOM PENH (REUTERS) - China scolded foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G-7) nations on Thursday (Aug 4) for telling Beijing not to use a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan as “pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait”.

China responded to Mrs Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this week by ordering live fire military drills in the waters surrounding the self-governed island, which Beijing regards as its sovereign territory.

In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the G-7 nations - including Japan - called on China to resolve tension around the Taiwan Strait in a peaceful manner.

The group said there was "no justification to use a visit as pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait".

It added that China’s escalatory response risked increasing tensions and destabilising the region and said it was routine for legislators from their countries to travel internationally.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi rejected their statement, and chided them for ignoring the provocation that had come from the United States.

“It groundlessly criticises China for taking such measures, which are reasonable and legitimate steps to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Mr Wang said in a statement issued by his ministry.

“From where have they received such a prerogative? Who has given them such qualification to? To shield the infringer of rights and to accuse their defenders – how inexplicable!”

The G-7 statement had aroused “great indignation” among the Chinese people, he said.

“Today’s China is no longer the China of the 19th century. History should not repeat itself, and it will never repeat itself!”

Due to the statement from G-7, which Japan is part of, China cancelled a meeting between Mr Wang and his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi on the sidelines of Asean events in Cambodia, said Ms Hua Chunying, spokesman at the Chinese foreign ministry.

Ms Hua added that if other G-7 nations follow in the footsteps of the US over the Taiwan issue, then that means they themselves have no independence in their diplomacy and policies.

“(They) should adhere to the consensus reached by China on the one-China policy, as this is the most important political premise and basis for China’s relations with them,” Ms Hua said.

Later in the evening, Mr Wang walked out before the start of a gala dinner of foreign ministers at the meeting in Cambodia and was seen leaving the venue in a vehicle, witnesses said.

Mr Wang waved to the media as he entered a holding room for the dinner and then walked out of the venue, without giving a reason, according to Reuters journalists.

Two witnesses working at the venue told Reuters that Mr Wang was seen leaving in a vehicle.

The dinner was attended by more than a dozen foreign ministers including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, and senior diplomats Asean nations.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Wang called Mrs Pelosi's visit to Taiwan a "manic, irresponsible and highly irrational" action by the US, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Mr Wang said China has made the utmost diplomatic effort to avert crisis, but will never allow its core interests to be hurt.

China's current and future measures are necessary and timely defensive countermeasures, carefully considered and evaluated, aimed at safeguarding national sovereignty and security, in line with international and domestic law, state-owned broadcaster CCTV cited him as saying.

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Mr Hayashi on Tuesday declined to comment on Mrs Pelosi’s trip, saying only in general that it was extremely important for the international community that the US and China have stable ties.

Tokyo subsequently lodged a protest over Chinese military drills around Taiwan, as some of them were in what Japan considers its exclusive economic zone close to its south-western-most islands.  

With relations between the Asian neighbours strained over a raft of issues, the Asean meeting was to have been the first in-person encounter between the foreign ministers of Japan and China since 2020, although they held a video conference in May.

Japan has sought to avoid alienating its biggest trading partner, China, while bolstering ties with its only formal military ally, the US.

China and Japan are also locked in a territorial dispute over uninhabited islands close to Taiwan. 

Japanese officials have become increasingly outspoken about the importance of Taiwan’s national security to its own stability, a development that has sparked anger in China, which considers the island part of its territory.   

Former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba headed a lawmakers’ delegation to Taipei last week, where he called for bilateral talks on how to deal with contingencies.

Japan and Taiwan are about 110km apart at their closest point.

Mrs Pelosi was set to visit Japan on Friday, as the last leg of her Asia tour, which started in Singapore on Monday, followed by Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea.

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