Japan, EU name Taiwan for the first time in joint statement
TOKYO – Japan and the European Union affirmed “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” in a statement Thursday, marking the first time the two sides have spoken jointly about the autonomous island.
The statement came after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga held an online summit with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Japan and the EU last held a bilateral summit two years ago, under the leadership of then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“We stress the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of the problems across the strait,” the leaders said in the statement. declaration.
The remark on Taiwan echoes Suga’s joint statement with US President Joe Biden last month, as well as the statement by Group of Seven foreign ministers this month. Japan hopes its statement with the EU will help pave the way for a discussion on Taiwan at the G-7 summit in the UK next month.
Besides Taiwan, Suga, Michel and von der Leyen agreed to launch the Japan-EU Green Alliance to advance cooperation on climate and environmental issues. The two parties will work together to develop decarbonisation technologies and support emerging Asian countries in the energy transition.
Both sides said they “support the safe and secure staging of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.”
Thursday’s summit also focused on the EU’s first formal strategy for the Indo-Pacific, which is expected to be finalized by September. An overview released by the bloc in April stopped before explicitly criticizing China for its expansionist moves in the region.
Suga at the meeting discussed how China has flouted international law in the waters surrounding the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which China claims to be the Diaoyu. EU leaders have said they will take a united stance and denounce activities that undermine a free and open international order.
In their statement, the leaders said they “strongly oppose any unilateral attempt to change the status quo and increase tensions” in the East and South China Seas. Tokyo hopes that greater EU involvement in Asia would be a boon to Japan’s national security.
The EU has traditionally been more reserved in its retaliation against Beijing than either Japan or the United States, in part due to its extensive economic ties to – and geographic distance from – China. Taiwan was also not among the bloc’s top diplomatic priorities.
But the EU is increasingly alarmed by human rights concerns in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang region, as well as Chinese censorship over the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic.
“The EU sees itself as a community of democracies,” said Ken Endo, professor at Hokkaido University.
“There is an opening for diplomatic efforts to turn the EU’s gaze to Taiwan by encouraging the bloc to defend democracy,” he said.
Europe is also increasingly interested in the Indo-Pacific market. He projects a dramatic expansion of the region’s middle class by 2030 and fears that ignoring Chinese activities that undermine maritime rules in that country could squeeze the growing market. About 40% of shipments to and from Europe pass through the South China Sea.
However, some European players are reluctant to oppose China. The German auto industry depends on China for around 40% of global turnover. Eastern European countries also have strong economic ties with China, including through Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure construction initiative.