China Accuses U.S. and Japan of Interfering on Taiwan
|By Jim Yardley and Keith Bradsher
Published: February 21, 2005
BEIJING, Feb. 20 - 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.
Taiwan has been trying to improve cross-strait relations in the two months since advocates of greater Taiwanese political independence from the mainland suffered an unexpected setback in legislative elections.
Mr. Chen said he believed that Japanese officials shared Taiwan's concerns about China's double-digit annual increases in military spending, especially after the recent detection of a Chinese submarine in waters claimed by Japan. But he added that the government of Taiwan had not been contacted directly by Tokyo in connection with the Saturday agreement.
The shift in the Japanese stance on Saturday was fairly subtle. The Japanese government has previously called unilaterally for peace in the Taiwan Strait, and has offered logistical but not military support to the United States in case of a conflict between Taiwan and mainland China. But Japan has been much more cautious about including any reference to Taiwan in bilateral security statements with the United States. Japanese officials were reluctant to call attention to the language in the statement on Saturday. Nonetheless, it represented a departure from the most recent previous military cooperation statement between the United States and Japan in 1997, which simply called for the two countries to work together in the "area surrounding Japan."
Lo Fu-chen, who was Taiwan's chief representative to Japan from 2001 until last July, said the new policy statement represented a very important gain for Taiwan. "It's a giant step for Japan to step in and even mention the Taiwan Strait as a security concern from their viewpoint," said Mr. Lo, who is now chairman of the Association of East Asian Relations in Taiwan.
The Saturday pact does not represent the first time that the United States and Japan have agreed to cooperate on issues regarding Taiwan. A 1960 security pact between the United States and Japan called for the two countries to cooperate on "Far East" regional security.
Japan publicly interpreted the agreement at the time as covering waters and lands north of the Philippines, including Taiwan, said Philip Yang, the director of the Taiwan Security Research Center at National Taiwan University.
But after Japan and the United States switched their diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1972 and 1979, respectively, subsequent joint security statements tended to omit even vague references to Taiwan.
Jim Yardley reported from Beijing for this article, and Keith Bradsher from Taipei, Taiwan.