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US, Japan and South Korea warn China for ratcheting tensions in Taiwan

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Headquarters of the US Forces Korea (USFK) at Pyeongtaek near Seoul (Photo: Yonhap/IANS)

In a direct response to China's aggression towards Taiwan, the US, Japan and South Korea have said that they oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea. They also stressed upon preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, a narrow strip of water that connects China to the island.

Tensions in the Indo-Pacific region over China's military activity has resulted in a flurry of activity in the region. US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R Sherman met with Japan's Vice Foreign Minister Mori Takeo and South Korea First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong Kun in Tokyo.

Besides China and its bellicosity towards Taiwan, the talks also included de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the threat to the region by China-ally North Korea.

In a statement, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said: "The Deputy Secretary and the two vice foreign ministers reiterated opposition to all activities that undermine, destabilize, or threaten the rules-based international order; affirmed the need to maintain an inclusive, free, and open Indo-Pacific; opposed any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea; and pledged to maintain peace and stability, lawful unimpeded commerce, and respect for international law, including freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea and beyond".

The talks were about jointly promoting security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific along with upholding human rights and respecting the rule of law. They also focussed on the tensions in the Taiwan Strait due to China's frequent violations of space and maritime sovereignty of the island nation.

In wide-ranging talks, the three also discussed the situation in South-East Asia and in Myanmar. Regarding the ASEAN region, the US Deputy Secretary and the two vice foreign ministers reiterated their support to an ASEAN-led regional architecture—a vital geo-strategic area where Chinese activities are creating almost daily conflicts with Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei.

Besides the regional challenges, the three nations also vowed to address the situation arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic climate change and economic recovery.

Sherman's visit follows British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace's visit to Tokyo just a couple of days earlier, where he committed to permanently stationing two warships in the region. During his two-day visit, Wallace met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi.

Significantly, the US is holding high-intensity war exercises with Australia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, the UK and Canada off the north-east shore of Queensland. The Talisman Sabre war games include launching assaults and defending islands in the Indo-Pacific region—clearly sending a signal that any invasion in the region would be met with an appropriate response.