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Japan and China hold first security talks since 2019

Chinese and Japanese deputy foreign ministers met in Tokyo on Wednesday for their first formal security talks in four years to ease tensions between the two countries. Tokyo took aim at Beijing’s military ties to Russia and its suspected use of spy balloons, while China said it was concerned by Japan’s military build-up.

Japan in December said it would double defense spending over the next five years to 2 percent of GDP – a total of USD 320 billion – to deter China from resorting to military action. Beijing, which increased defense spending by 7.1 percent last year, spends more than four times as much as Japan on its forces.

China said it was troubled by Japan's military build up and Tokyo took aim at Beijing's military ties to Russia and its suspected use of spy balloons during the Asian powers' first formal security talks in four years on Wednesday.

— Intl. Business Times (@IBTimes) February 22, 2023

Bones of contention

The world’s third-largest economy, Japan worries that China, the world’s second-largest economy will try and forcefully take control of Taiwan amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, sparking a conflict that could embroil Japan and disrupt global trade.

Tokyo plans to acquire long-range missiles that could strike mainland China and stock up on other munitions it would need to sustain a conflict alongside the large U.S. force it hosts.

“The international security situation has undergone vast changes and we are seeing the return of unilateralism, protectionism, and a Cold War mentality,” China’s Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong said at the start of the meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shigeo Yamada.

According to the Japanese official, the most concerning issues include their territorial dispute over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, Beijing’s recent joint military drills with Moscow, and the suspected Chinese surveillance balloons spotted over Japan at least three times since 2019.

Following the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon by the United States, Japan last week said it planned to clarify military engagement rules to allow its jet fighters to shoot down unmanned aircraft that violate its airspace.

Meeting results

In a statement released after the meeting, Japan’s foreign ministry said it had also stressed the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

The two countries had agreed to try and establish a direct communication hotline “around spring”, and to strengthen dialogue between their senior security officials, it added.

China is Japan’s largest trading partner, accounting for around a fifth of its exports and almost a quarter of its imports. It’s also a major manufacturing base for Japanese companies.

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