Japan Lashes Out At China On Uyghurs, Hong Kong Ahead Of US Visit

REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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Japan’s top diplomat criticized China, calling on the nation to halt its human rights abuses in Xinjiang as well as its crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong in a rare lash-out against its largest trading partner.

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi made the criticism directly to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a Monday phone call, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The conversation comes less than two weeks before Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is set to travel to the U.S. to meet in person with President Joe Biden. (RELATED: ‘China Will Expand Its Aggressive Stance’: Taiwan A Red Line, Biden Must Be Strong, Japanese Deputy Defense Minister Says)

Japan’s relations with China remain frosty as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues its claims of sovereignty over islands in the East China Sea that Japan retains control over. Suga’s visit to the White House will be Biden’s first in-person meeting with a world leader.

Biden has framed the competition between the U.S. and China as a struggle over whether democracy or autocracy will lead the world. He says Chinese Leader Xi Jinping criticizes democracy as too slow to meet the challenges of the modern world.

Japan is a member country in the revitalized “quad” partnership alongside the U.S., India and Australia. While U.S. officials insist the group is not “the new NATO,” the four countries aim to keep China in check and ensure consequences for recent alleged hacking attacks.

The Biden administration has made clear that opposing China on the world stage is a top priority. Secretary of State Tony Blinken testified to Congress in early March, saying their goal is to gather a “chorus” of countries to condemn China’s human rights abuses.

“The more China hears not just our opprobrium, but a chorus of opprobrium from around the world, the better the chance that we’ll get some changes,” Blinken said. “It would be very important if China claims that there is nothing going on that it give access to the international community, to the United Nations. If they have nothing to hide, show it to us. Show the world.”

The U.S., European Union, and several other nations announced sanctions on March 22 against Chinese Communist Party officials in Xinjiang over ongoing human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims.