TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, in a telephone call Thursday with his Chinese counterpart, stressed the importance of peace and stability between China and Taiwan and expressed “serious concern” about the situation in Hong Kong and China's Xinjiang region.
Hayashi also told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that he is gravely concerned about increased Chinese activities in regional seas, including near a Japanese-controlled island claimed by Beijing, Japan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The foreign ministers of the two Asian neighbors, whose relations are often stained over territorial disputes and wartime history, pledged to pursue dialogue and cooperation in economic relations, the ministry said.
Hayashi told Wang that he had “serious concern" about the situation in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, the ministry said, without describing it further. China has cracked down on pro-democracy activists and lawmakers in Hong Kong and is accused of violating the human rights of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
The ministry said Hayashi stressed the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait amid growing tensions between China and Taiwan. China claims that the self-governing island is part of its territory and has threatened to use force to unite with it if necessary.
Japan sees China’s increasingly assertive actions in the region as a national security threat and has been building up its defense on its southwestern islands.
New Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has created a new Cabinet post for international human rights, focusing mainly on China, and appointed former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani to the position.
Beijing has denied human rights violations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang and says countries that make such accusations are interfering in its domestic affairs.
China, which claims most of the South China Sea as well as Japanese-held islands in the East China Sea, says it has the right to defend its sovereignty, security and development interests.
Japanese officials say Chinese vessels routinely violate Japanese territorial waters near the East China Sea islands, sometimes threatening fishing boats.
Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press