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Japan, Britain ministers hold security talks amid China’s activities in East and South China seas

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 03/02/2021 Kyodo
Toshimitsu Motegi et al. sitting at a desk: Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, left, and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi attend a video conference with their British counterparts on February 3 2021. Photo: AP © AP Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, left, and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi attend a video conference with their British counterparts on February 3 2021. Photo: AP

Japanese and British foreign and defence ministers on Wednesday began a meeting via videoconference to affirm stronger security cooperation amid China's growing assertiveness in the East and South China seas.

In the so-called two-plus-two meeting, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi, and their British counterparts Dominic Raab and Ben Wallace were expected to discuss ways of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific region based on the rule of law, according to Japanese Foreign Ministry officials.

The ministers were also expected to agree to work closely on Britain's plan to dispatch an aircraft carrier strike group, centred on the Queen Elizabeth, to the western Pacific for joint naval exercises with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, the officials said.

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Tokyo seeks US vow of support in East China Sea, as dispute heats up

Japan welcomes the dispatch of the Queen Elizabeth, Britain's largest warship commissioned in 2017, as it shows the country's strengthened commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, they said.

The meeting, the fourth of its kind and convened for the first time since 2017, came as Japan and Britain both share concerns about China's rising maritime assertiveness and have voiced opposition to Beijing's unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China seas.

Japan has been angered by repeated intrusions into its territorial waters around a group of Tokyo-administered islands known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.

In the South China Sea, China has proceeded with large-scale and rapid land reclamation and constructed military facilities to press territorial rights to the waters despite conflicting claims by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The Japanese and British ministers are set to affirm working toward the goal of North Korea abandoning weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, the officials said.

They may also touch on the coup in Myanmar, where the military seized power Monday and detained the country's leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other government officials.

Ties between Britain and China have soured over Beijing's crackdown on pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong after a new national security law was imposed last year in the former British colony.

Britain formally requests to join Asia-Pacific mega trade pact

In another sign of London's tilt to the Indo-Pacific region, the country became Monday the first non-Pacific country to formally request to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) free-trade deal grouping 11 Pacific Rim countries, including Australia, Canada and Japan, but not China.

Britain said through the accession to the CPTPP covering 13 per cent of the global gross domestic product, it hopes to tap into the Pacific region's economic potential and contribute to expanding rules-based international order.

The bilateral two-plus-two meeting was previously held in December 2017 in London. The two sides initially aimed to hold it in April 2019 but had to postpone it as London juggled Brexit and the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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