Security talks between China and Japan took place for the first time in four years on Wednesday, February 22, 2023. The talks aimed to ease tensions between the world's second and third-largest economies.
Japan Worries Over China's Possible Military Action in Taiwan
The talks came amid Japan's worries that China might resort to military force to take control of Taiwan after Russia attacks Ukraine. This could lead to a conflict involving Japan and disrupt global trade.
Japan Doubles Defense Spending to Deter China
Japan announced in December 2022 that it would double its defense spending over the next five years to 2% of its Gross Domestic Product, which amounts to $320 billion. This move was aimed at deterring China from resorting to military action. On the other hand, China increased its defense spending by 7.1% last year and spent more than four times as much as Japan on its forces.
Japan Acquires Long-Range Missiles to Strike China
In response, Japan plans to acquire longer-range missiles that could strike mainland China and stock up on other munitions that it would need to sustain a conflict alongside the large US force it hosts.
Return of Unilateralism, Protectionism, and Cold War Mentality
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong stated at the start of the meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Shigeo Yamada that "the international security situation has undergone profound changes, and we are seeing the return of unilateralism, protectionism, and a Cold War mentality."
China is Japan's Largest Trading Partner
China is Japan's largest trading partner, accounting for around a fifth of its exports and almost a quarter of its imports. It is also a major manufacturing base for Japanese companies.
Territorial Disputes and Military Drills
During the meeting, Shigeo Yamada pointed out the territorial dispute between the two countries over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea and Beijing's recent joint military drills with Moscow. He also brought up the suspected Chinese surveillance balloons spotted over Japan at least three times since 2019.
Japan Clarifies Military Engagement Rules
Following the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon by the United States, Japan announced last week that it planned to clarify military engagement rules to allow its jet fighters to shoot down unmanned aircraft that violate its airspace.
Strengthening Dialogue and Establishing Direct Communication Hotline
In a statement released after the meeting, Japan's foreign ministry said that the two countries had agreed to try and establish a direct communication hotline "around spring" and to strengthen dialogue between their senior security officials. The statement also emphasized the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.