In a veiled rebuke against China’s behaviour over trade with Australia, Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison on Sunday expressed strong opposition to China’s “economic coercion”.
The Japanese foreign ministry said the two met for a private discussion on the sidelines of the Group of Seven Summit (G7) in Cornwall, UK, Kyodo News reported.
Beijing’s relations with Tokyo and Canberra have been strained in recent times over several issues.
Suga and Morrison also affirmed their commitment to working with the US and India in the Quad grouping in an effort to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Concerns over the stability of the region have grown stronger particularly after the recent enactment of a Chinese maritime law, allowing its coast guard ships to fire on foreign vessels in waters that Beijing deems its territory.
China has been increasing its maritime activities in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea over the past few months, partly because of Beijing’s concerns over the increasing US military presence in the region because of escalating Sino-US tensions.
Tensions between Australia and China have also been escalating on the trade front.
Last month, Australia said it is approaching the World Trade Organization to establish a dispute settlement panel to resolve concerns about anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed on Australian barley by China.
Recently, China’s National Development and Reform Commission said it would “indefinitely suspend” all activities under the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue, a forum launched in 2014 and last convened in 2017, reported South China Morning Post.
The Chinese agency said the decision was made because of Australia’s “Cold War mindset and ideological discrimination” that had disrupted cooperation.
This came after Australia cancelled agreements to participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, terming it as “inconsistent with the country’s foreign policy”.
China has described Australia’s decision as “unreasonable and provocative”, warning that this would further damage bilateral relations.
In 2020, Morrison’s government called for independent investigators to enter Wuhan to probe the origins of the coronavirus.
Beijing has since inflicted a range of trade reprisals, including crippling tariffs on Australian barley and wine, while blocking coal shipments.