Monday, February 21, 2005

China Accuses U.S. and Japan of Interfering on Taiwan

Via New York Times: China accused Japan and the United States on Sunday of meddling in its internal affairs, and criticized a new joint security statement in which the two countries declared a peaceful Taiwan Strait as among their "common strategic objectives."

The mention of Taiwan in the statement issued Saturday by senior American and Japanese officials drew a firm response from China, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province and is acutely sensitive to what it regards as outside interference. By contrast, Taiwan's foreign minister cautiously welcomed the statement.

In Beijing, the official New China News Agency described the statement as "unprecedented" and quoted China's Foreign Ministry as saying that the country "resolutely opposes the United States and Japan in issuing any bilateral document concerning China's Taiwan, which meddles in the internal affairs of China, and hurts China's sovereignty."

The joint statement was issued at a diplomatically fragile time in East Asia. Japan and the United States want China to persuade North Korea to return to talks over its nuclear weapons program. North Korea declared Saturday that it would not take part in any new rounds of talks, and over the weekend, China sent a delegation to the capital, Pyongyang.

The American-Japanese statement dealt foremost with North Korea but included a short, cautious mention of Taiwan. It noted that both countries called for "encouraging the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait" as part of a list of "common strategic objectives."

But American and Taiwanese officials, and the New China News Agency, said that mentioning Taiwan by name was a shift for Japan, which has in the past been leery of publicly inserting itself into the Taiwan issue. Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at People's University in Beijing, said the change signaled a greater assertiveness by Japan and reflected the deteriorating relationship between China and Japan. He said the Japanese government and people appeared to regard China increasingly as a hostile force.

"It's really an important development," Mr. Shi said. "Before, the Japanese government never publicly said the Taiwan issue was an issue within its security concerns."

Mr. Shi also noted that China might now be less motivated to push North Korea aggressively to resume negotiations over its nuclear program. "How can the U.S. expect China to make much more of a contribution to help with North Korea?" he asked. "China is very angry about this development in the Taiwan issue."

Meanwhile, Chen Tan-sun, Taiwan's foreign minister, said in a telephone interview from his home on Sunday morning that the United States-Japan statement would provide Taiwan with greater confidence in its security. But he took pains not to present the declaration as a challenge to mainland China. "We want to emphasize the importance of a peaceful settlement here," Mr. Chen said.

Read the rest here