Japan urges China to play 'responsible' role in Ukraine crisis

Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi (left) speaking with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi via video link on May 18, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's foreign minister on Wednesday (May 18) urged Beijing to "play a responsible role" in Russia's invasion of Ukraine in his first talks with his Chinese counterpart in six months.

Japan has joined Western allies on tough sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, while Beijing has declined to condemn Moscow's invasion.

Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that Russia's invasion "is a clear violation of the UN Charter and other international laws", Japan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

He "urged China to play a responsible role in maintaining international peace and security", it added.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday Japan’s cooperation with the United States should not “provoke confrontation among camps”.

Mr Wang told Mr Hayashi in a video call that talk about Japan and the United States “teaming up against China” has been rife and has created a “foul atmosphere”, according to a statement on the foreign ministry website.

The talks are the first between the two foreign ministers since November last year, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry, coming as concerns ramp up about geopolitical tensions.

China and Russia are perceived to be stepping up coordination, with Beijing pointedly refusing to join the outcry over Moscow's invasion though it has pledged not to circumvent sanctions over the war.

The talks come as United States President Joe Biden is set to arrive in Japan this week after a stop in Seoul.

He will hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and attend a meeting of the Quad grouping that includes Australia and India.

The grouping has been seen as intended to pressure China as it builds its economic and military weight in the region.

Japan views Beijing's growing military assertiveness with concern, and Mr Hayashi raised issues, including islands disputed between the countries and the situation in the East and South China Seas in talks with Mr Wang.

But China is also Tokyo's largest trading partner and Japan is keen to avoid being drawn into disputes between Beijing and Washington.

Mr Hayashi said both China and Japan "should say what needs to be said and engage in dialogue", warning that bilateral ties "face various difficulties and that public opinion in Japan is extremely severe towards China".

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.