Japan may cancel state visit of Chinese president over souring relations

Japan has rebuked China for using the pandemic to enforce the national security law that jeopardises future of Japanese people in Hong Kong and for its aggression in East China Sea

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and Chinese President Xi Jingping

Japan may cancel the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jingping amid protests by Japanese lawmakers over China’s new national security law that they fear threatens the right of Japanese people and companies in Hong Kong, said a report in Hindustan Times.

The new law, passed by China aims to punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life.

According to the HT report, lawmakers of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have asked the government to reconsider Xi’s visit to Japan. The visit earlier scheduled for April was postponed in view of the COVID-19 crisis. It would have been the first visit by a Chinese president since 2008.

With around 1,400 Japanese companies operating out of Hong Kong, also the largest importer of Japanese agricultural goods, Japan has accused China of exploiting the pandemic to enforce a clampdown on Hong Kong, and affect the business of Japanese people there.

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Tokyo has said that the new law goes against the promise of allowing a high degree of autonomy when Britain handed over Hong Kong to Beijing in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” framework.

“It is regrettable that the national security law was enacted despite strong concerns shared among the international society and the people of Hong Kong,” Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi had said, criticising the new law. “It will undermine trust for the principle of ‘one country, two systems.”

While Jingping’s visit was expected to have ironed out past differences between both the countries, China has taken no effort on that front by continuing with its aggression in the East China Sea.

While recent weeks saw China sending ships to water near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, Japan has been seeing 67 Chinese Coast Guard ships near these waters since April.

China claims Senkaku Islands – a chain of uninhabited islands in East China Sea – as its own and that it has a right to patrol these areas. Japan on the other hand says that the islands are under its control under international law.

The Senkaku Islands are strategic in nature for their proximity to important shipping lanes and have vast reserves of oil and natural gas. In 2012, the Japanese government purchased three of the islands from their private Japanese owners, much to the chargin of China. There has been a clash between both the countries ever since.

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Japan’s Defence Minister Taro Kono said China’s behaviour in the sea was jeopardising peace in the region.

While Japan has reported increased Chinese activity in the area, it has also deployed fighter jets in the area following Chinese military activity near the Japanese airbase. The HT report speculates that retaliation from Japan could trigger a military conflict in the region and the country will get the support of United States under the defence treaty between the two nations.

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