• KYODO, JIJI

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Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has expressed strong concern over human rights issues in China during his remarks to a virtual meeting of leaders from about 50 Asian and European countries.

On Friday, the last day of the two-day summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting, Kishida voiced worries about the human rights situation in Hong Kong as well as the Xinjiang region in northwestern China.

Kishida also said he strongly opposes unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China seas, apparently criticizing China’s military buildup.

Kishida also said that the realization of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” region is “a common interest” of both Asia and Europe.

“It is important to resolve problems between nations based on dialogue and cooperation without relying on power or coercion,” Kishida he added.

Leaders of European countries on Thursday, the first day of the summit, also expressed concern about friction between China and other nations over human rights and other issues.

At the closing of the meeting on Friday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who hosted the summit, said, hailed the grouping.

“Over the past 25 years, ASEM has proven to be a vital platform, connecting Asia and Europe and promoting the partnership between the two continents,” he said.

Cambodia as the chair issued statements on strengthened cooperation among ASEM member states in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. In the statements, the member states stressed the need for countries to have fair national access to coronavirus vaccines and accelerated cooperation for economic recovery from the pandemic.

They also expressed deep concerns over Myanmar, where the military seized power after toppling a civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in February.

The ASEM leaders urged the ruling junta to accept a special envoy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, who is supposed to mediate between the stakeholders in the country.

Myanmar did not participate in the summit, after being told that only a “nonpolitical representative” could attend, according to ASEAN sources.

Meanwhile, the leaders did not specifically refer to territorial disputes in the South China Sea, only mentioning the importance of a peaceful solution to conflicts in general based on international law and freedom of navigation.

ASEM involves about 50 countries from across Europe and Asia as well as the European Union and the ASEAN secretariat.

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