China blasts US-Japan-Philippines summit, lodges representations

‘Anti-China gathering’ a step closer to forming a mini-NATO in Asia Pacific

Chinese authorities on Friday expressed strong opposition to the US, Japan and Philippines’ highly-targeted summit in Washington, as the group vowed to enhance military ties to cope with “China’s threats,” ignoring its deeds that undermine regional peace and stability.

Analysts termed the trilateral summit an “anti-China gathering,” which moves a step closer to the US’ goal of forming a mini-NATO in the Asia-Pacific. However, with disparate calculations between US allies and China’s sufficient capability, the “ironclad” alliance commitment does not look as solid as China’s resolve in safeguarding sovereignty and regional stability.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said during a regular press conference on Friday that “China strongly opposes the practice of bloc politics by relevant countries. We firmly oppose any acts that stoke and drive up tensions and harm other countries’ strategic security and interests. We are seriously against forming exclusive groupings in this region.”

“Certain countries keep seeking backing from non-regional countries as they infringe on China’s sovereignty and rights and make provocations at sea. What they have done has escalated the tensions. Certain country outside the region keep fueling the flame and stoking confrontation,” she added.

Responding to the US, Japan and Philippines’ smearing and hypes, Mao reiterated that the Taiwan question is purely China’s internal affair, and that China has indisputable sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands and Nanhai Zhudao.

Liu Jinsong, director general of the Department of Asian Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, summoned Chief Minister of the Embassy of Japan in China Yokochi Akira to lodge solemn representations and express serious concerns and strong dissatisfaction over Japan’s negative moves during the Japan-US summit in Washington and the trilateral summit among the US, Japan and the Philippines. Liu also made solemn representations to the Philippine ambassador to China Jaime FlorCruz over the Southeast Asian country’s “negative words and deeds” related to China during the summit. China’s Embassy in the US also lodged a solemn representation to Washington.

Senior Colonel Wu Qian, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said on Friday that China upholds that defense cooperation between countries should not target any specific country or undermine regional peace and stability. China’s relevant activities in the South China Sea are justified, lawful and beyond reproach, he said.

In contrast, a certain non-regional country frequently sends military vessels and aircraft to the South China Sea to flex its muscles, gathers its allies to build up “small cliques” against China, and even threatens and coerces China with so-called mutual defense treaties. These acts are irresponsible and extremely dangerous, Wu said.

Undermining regional peace
The first-ever trilateral summit between the US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr was held in Washington on Thursday local time, with the three countries’ leaders vowing to enhance defense ties, targeting China.

According to a joint statement released by the White House, the three countries expressed “serious concerns” over China’s actions to safeguard its sovereignty, which it termed as “dangerous and aggressive behavior” in the South China Sea, and “attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force or coercion in the East China Sea.”

It also mentioned the Taiwan question, which is China’s internal affair, claiming that there is no change in their basic positions on Taiwan, and called for a “peaceful resolution of cross-Straits issues.”

The statement also announced the establishment of a trilateral maritime dialogue to “enhance coordination and collective responses,” adding that the US and Japan will continue to support Philippine Coast Guard capacity building.

The statement said the three countries plan to conduct a maritime training activity around Japan in 2025.

“Within the next year, our coast guards also plan to conduct an at-sea trilateral exercise and other maritime activities in the Indo-Pacific to improve interoperability,” said the statement.

Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Friday that with words and deeds blatantly targeting China, the summit has made itself an “anti-China gathering.”

According to the joint statement, the three countries said they “welcome efforts to support a peaceful and stable, rules-based Indo-Pacific region,” including from the Quad, AUKUS, and the US-Japan-South Korea trilateral framework.

Kyodo News said on March 31 that the US is making arrangements for trilateral talks with Japanese and South Korean leaders in July when the NATO summit is held in Washington.

With the deepening of the trilateral military alliance between the US, Japan and the Philippines, and the aforementioned mini-multilateral framework among the US and its Asia-Pacific allies, Washington is moving one step closer to building a mini-Asia-Pacific NATO, Da said, “This is not only a serious provocation to China, but also a grave threat to regional peace and security.”

“From the perspective of its strategic goals, the US does not want to see a united Asia. In the absence of its own strength, the Biden administration has tried to mobilize the sea power countries in Asia, such as Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, to contain the land power countries such as China and Russia, which serves its goal of being the dominant power in the sea power game in the Asia-Pacific region,” a Beijing-based expert told the Global Times, requesting anonymity.

The US wants to perpetuate the confrontation within Asia, just as it did in Europe, the expert noted, “Under the cloak of morality, provoking conflicts outside its territory to maintain Washington’s hegemony is an important external environment for US policy elites to sleep well at night.”

Lü Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Friday that a joint statement of this nature is actually telling China that the US and its allies may cross the red line in the future.

We will not take the initiative to launch the attack, but the Chinese side will be on high alert, and any small step across the red line will be met with a firm counterattack, said the experts.

The US is well aware of China’s military capabilities in the Western Pacific, and it does not dare to carry out any substantive acts other than provocations, otherwise it will incur unbearable consequences, Lü said.

Disparate calculations

In the joint statement, Biden reaffirmed the “ironclad” US alliance commitments to both Japan and the Philippines.

The White House also gave Kishida a grand reception during his visit, including a Congress speech, swanky state dinner, and as many as 70 new cooperation agreements to boost defense and intelligence ties, which Biden described as the “most significant upgrade in our alliance.”

However, Kishida’s acceptance of the warm hospitality in Washington means that Japan will share more costs and responsibilities for the geo-defense of the US, such as in the field of arms production and technology research and development, Da said.

In addition to actively participating in various mechanisms to maintain US hegemony and contain China, Japan may even be required to cooperate with the US in other ways, such as encouraging Japanese companies to invest in the US, Da added.

Biden also wants the summit to show off his diplomatic success and boost his popularity ahead of the US presidential elections. More importantly, Americans want Japan and the Philippines, which are on the front lines of containment of China in the Asia-Pacific region, to risk their own destruction at a critical moment, Da noted.

Analysts said Kishida also took his US visit as an opportunity to boost his popularity, but in reality, the effect seems to have been unsatisfactory. A Jiji Press poll shows that public support for Kishida’s cabinet fell to 16.6 percent in April, a new record low since the administration came into power in October 2021.

Japan hopes to use the US as a backer to expand its military and gradually unleash militarism, and even export troops and security capabilities to areas with disputes in the future to further enhance its influence, Da said.

“But holding the country’s fate and strategic interests hostage to the US comes at a price. It is not acceptable to all citizens, including the economic community,” Da said.

With regard to the Philippines, analysts said Manila hopes to demand more non-military rewards, such as economic benefits, from Washington through a pro-US posture, such as a US transfer of investment and industrial chain to the Philippines. By provoking China in the South China Sea, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr could also gain more support from the Philippine military, which is regarded as pro-US, to secure his rule.

In the joint statement, the three countries expressed concern over and strongly opposed economic coercion, and announced the launch of the Luzon Corridor, the bloc’s first global infrastructure partnership and investment corridor in the “Indo-Pacific.”

The Philippines needs to be clear that once it is determined to become a country that pulls external risk factors into the Asia Pacific, then it will become an outlier in ASEAN, and that in any case, ASEAN-China ties are the most helpful to the Philippine economy, Lü said.

“Marcos still has time to reflect, as China will exert maximum restraint and minimal actions to stop the Philippines from its harassing and provocative acts. But the Philippines will suffer huge losses if it crosses the red line,” he noted.

(Global Times)

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