• Kyodo, JIJI


Defense Minister Taro Kono on Tuesday urged Beijing to respect international norms and work toward addressing his country’s concerns over increasing Chinese maritime assertiveness ahead of President Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan in the spring.

Kono took aim at China during his speech at a think tank in Washington, where he has been visiting to meet with Defense Secretary Mark Esper to discuss the tense situation in the Middle East and other issues.

The minister said in the speech that Japan “cannot overlook” the frequent violation of its territorial waters around the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea by Chinese government vessels. The islets are also claimed by Beijing, which calls them Diaoyu.

While Japan plans to welcome Xi as a state guest this year, Kono said China needs to “work hard” to improve the situation, or “otherwise we may find a difficult environment for the visit.”

“International norms, such as freedom, democracy and legal order have been built up and maintained by countries, including Japan and the United States and others, overcoming difficulties,” he said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “If China makes light of the international norms, they have to pay the cost.”

As to a request to Tokyo from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to boost the Japanese budget for bearing the costs for U.S. troops stationed in the Asian country, Kono sought to convey the rationale behind Japan’s negative stance toward such a budget increase.

“The (Japanese) Self-Defense Forces will work together with the United States military in protecting Japan’s national security, as well as securing peace and stability of the (Indo-Pacific) region,” the minister said.