Editor's note: Yu Hong is a senior research fellow of the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the signing of the 1978 bilateral Peace and Friendship Treaty between China and Japan. It is an important year for both countries. Since China and Japan established diplomatic relations in September 1972, bilateral relations between the two countries have been constructive and beneficial to both countries.
Nevertheless, Sino-Japan relations have become strained for the past several years due to a range of issues, including territorial disputes in the East China Sea. Also, due to the need to safeguard the global marine environment and human health and safety, China is deeply concerned over Japan's plan to discharge treated Fukushima nuclear wastewater into the sea. Despite strong opposition from China, South Korea, and other countries, Japan has decided to go ahead with the discharge plan.
Meanwhile, in December 2022, when Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was unveiling Japan's biggest military build-up since World War II, he made the commitment to raise Japan's spending on its Self-Defence Forces to 2 percent of its GDP by 2027, which will mean that by then Japan will have the world's third largest defense budget.
If realized, Japan could be moving towards militarisation. On May 9, 2023, even American Time Magazine, in its latest printed edition, published a feature article on Prime Minister Kishida based on an exclusive interview. According to the article, Kishida has set the vision to turn Japan, as the world's third-largest economy into a true military power by abandoning decades of pacifism.
Under this massive military build-up plan, Japan decided to acquire counter-strike capabilities, which will give the country the long-range military capability to strike enemy bases and destroy rival assets by coordinating weaponry including aerial satellites, hypersonic cruise missiles, submarines, and fighter jets. Japan is also deepening its defense cooperation with the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and the Philippines.
China endured immense suffering imposed by Japan's invasion of the country during World War II. Given the tragedy of the huge losses suffered during Japan's invasion, China has been worried by Japan's plans for such an enormous military build-up and has expressed its concern.
In March 2023, Qin Gang, China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister, gave a remark by referring to Japan in a press conference during China's Two Sessions, "Today's international order is built on the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War, which cost the lives and blood of 35 million Chinese soldiers and civilians. The Chinese people will never accept any form of historical revisionism that challenges the post-war international order and international justice."
Regrettably, bilateral relations between China and Japan are likely to remain tense amid Japan's military build-up plan and its pursuit of the U.S. policy to contain China in the name of the "China threat."
China also criticized Japan's plan to host a NATO liaison office in Tokyo, saying that the military alliance is interfering in the affairs of the region and inciting block confrontation. Meanwhile, Japan is keen on enabling the U.S.-led military alliance to intervene in regional security issues in the region. Tokyo's plan could escalate the geopolitical tension in the region, trigger an arms race in the region, and damage the prospects for improving its relations with Beijing.
The Group of Seven (G7) summit is held in the Japanese City of Hiroshima from May 19-21. As holder of the rotating presidency of G7 this year, the Japanese government has proposed a work agenda that will bring the issue of peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits into the G7 summit discussion. This is likely to alienate China, and further strain the bilateral relations.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson responded on May 20 that "the G7 talks loudly about 'moving towards a peaceful, stable and prosperous world,' but it is doing things that hinder international peace, undermine regional stability and stifle the development of other countries, such actions have no international credibility at all. Despite China's grave concerns, the G7 insists on manipulating China-related issues, smears and attacks China, and grossly interferes in China's internal affairs, China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to this and has lodged solemn representations with the host of the summit, Japan and other relevant parties."
Taiwan question is a red line that should never be crossed. The Chinese authorities firmly uphold the principle of China's sovereignty over Taiwan region. China regards Taiwan as an internal matter, in which it opposes any foreign interference. During his press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo in April 2023, China's Ambassador, Wu Jianghao warned that Japan should not interfere in Taiwan question, and stressed that the Taiwan question is at the core of China's core interests and concerns the foundations of China-Japan relations.
Given its geographic proximity, China will always be important to Japan. China is a rising global power and the world's second-largest economy, and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Without collaboration from China, Japan cannot effectively address any regional or global economic or security issues today. Japan's military build-up plan won't help the country to address the security challenges it faces.
Japan should cooperate with China to address the regional and global issues that affect their bilateral relations as well as the peace and stability of the region. For China and Japan, forging good-neighbourly friendship and win-win cooperation is the only rightful approach to move forward.
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