Japan’s relations with China are no better than the notoriously tense China-Australia relations, Japan’s ambassador to Australia said Wednesday (21/7).
Japan’s relationship with China is often used as an example by Australia of how productive relations can be maintained with Beijing despite disagreements. But Ambassador Shingo Yamagami said he found a common misconception in Australia about the state of Japan’s relations with China since he took office in December last year.
“In short there is an argument that compared to Australia, Japan has better relations with Japan’s neighbour, namely China,” Yamagami told the National Press Club of Australia.
“My simple answer is: no. I do not agree with such an argument. Why? Because every day Japan faces difficulties,” added Yamagami.
Japan, Australia and other countries need to join forces to tackle the challenges caused by China’s rise, he said. “Dont worry. You have done a very good job. We face the same problem and we have to work together,” said Yamagami.
China has grown increasingly hostile towards Australia since early last year, after the Australian government called for an independent investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Relations between China and Australia have deteriorated in recent years. Australia is blocking Chinese technology and investment in key infrastructure. China has imposed tariffs and other measures to reduce its imports from Australia.
Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, who is now president of the Asia Society, a New York-based think tank, is among Australia’s foreign policy critics who have praised Japan’s dealings with China.
Rudd has urged Beijing and Canberra to avoid war of words in their bilateral affairs. Japan, which like Australia is a close US ally, Rudd said, managed its relationship with China without retaliatory trade sanctions in recent years through actions, not words.
President Joe Biden’s administration and Japan recently said they would support Australia against what they describe as China’s campaign of economic coercion through informal trade sanctions.
Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga argued that trade should not be used as a tool to apply political pressure, Yamagami said. “I applaud the way Australia has dealt with tremendous pressure in a consistent, principled and resilient manner,” he said. [ab/uh]