New Zealand, Japan boost security ties amid Russia, PRC concerns

New Zealand, Japan boost security ties amid Russia, PRC concerns

The Associated Press

The leaders of Japan and New Zealand agreed in late April 2022 to strengthen their nations’ partnership in defense, trade and climate, including the beginning of formal talks toward a military information-sharing agreement.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited Japan  as part of her first trip abroad in more than two years, as her government seeks to promote the country’s reopening for business and tourism following a pandemic-related border closure. Ardern said she and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “at great length because we are at a critical juncture.” (Pictured: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meet in Tokyo on April 21, 2022.)

Kishida said they denounced the invasion. “Use of force to change the status quo is impermissible. Japan and New Zealand oppose any such attempt in the East or South China sea or any other place,” he said at a joint news conference after their talks.

The leaders also raised concerns about the situation in the South China Sea, where the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has constructed and militarized several artificial features and is pressing its extensive territorial claims, which were rejected by an international tribunal in 2016.

They opposed “any unilateral actions that could escalate tensions and undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order,” according to a joint statement released by Japan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

“As two democracies, our approaches to the challenges facing our Indo-Pacific region are closely aligned,” Ardern said. “We are committed to working toward a vision of an open, inclusive, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific underpinned by the rules-based order and free from collusion.”

Japan is especially concerned about Chinese military and coast guard activity in the East China Sea near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which the PRC claims.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased worry in Japan about rising tensions between the PRC and the self-governed island of Taiwan, which Beijing also claims as its own territory.

Japan in recent years has expanded military ties beyond its traditional ally, the United States, forming partnerships and stepping up joint exercises with Australia, India, the United Kingdom and European nations.

Japan and New Zealand agreed to increase joint drills and seek a military information-sharing agreement, which would be Tokyo’s 10th.

Ardern and Kishida also shared concerns about human rights conditions in the PRC’s Xinjiang region and the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdowns on freedoms in Hong Kong. They agreed to deepen cooperation in areas including trade, renewable energy and green technology.

Kishida said they also pledged to cooperate in supporting Pacific island nations.

The two leaders were expected to discuss a new security agreement between the PRC and the Solomon Islands that allows the PRC to send police and military personnel to the Pacific island nation, while also opening the door for Chinese warships to make port stops there. It has triggered worries of a possible Chinese naval base in the region.

“The new security agreement between China and Solomon Islands could affect the security of the entire Pacific region, and Japan is watching the development with concern,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said in April 2022.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has said the pact would not “undermine the peace and harmony of our region.” He said his government would not allow the PRC to build a military base there, and the PRC has denied seeking a military foothold in the South Pacific.

 

IMAGE CREDIT: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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