Japan's defence minister Nobuo Kishi has urged European nations to have a stronger military involvement in the Indo-Pacific to counter China's influence in the region.
According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), Kishi, in his first speech to the European Parliament subcommittee on security and defence on Friday, called on the European Parliament subcommittee to solidify its commitment to the Indo-Pacific region and for the two sides to "continue and expand" their security cooperation.
"[Parties] such as Japan and the EU must tackle together ... the fight against authoritarianism...As defence minister, I highly commend the point that the EU strategy sets out [about] the strengthening of presence and action in the Indo-Pacific," he said in an online address.
In his speech, Kishi went on to slam Beijing for its unilateral attempts to change the status quo by coercion and efforts to militarise contested parts of the South China Sea.
He also expressed concerns over China's "unilateral attempts to change the status quo" in the East China Sea, particularly with the adoption of a controversial coastguard law in January, reported SCMP.
"The justified rights of all relevant countries should never be undermined due to the coastguard law, and we can never tolerate anything that could heighten the tension on the waters such as the East China Sea and the South China Sea," he said.
Meanwhile, a source familiar with Japan's defence policymaking said that the speech was part of Japan's efforts to enlist the EU to put more pressure on Beijing.
In April following their first face-to-face meeting in Washington since taking office, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and US President Joe Biden issued a joint statement to express concerns over the East and South China seas as well as over the Taiwan Strait.
After the talks, Beijing accused Tokyo of being a "strategic vassal" of the United States.
Recently, tensions between China and Japan have escalated amid increased activity by Beijing in the disputed East China Sea.
Kishi said on Friday that Japan would "continue to keep a close eye" on the shifting military balance across the Taiwan Strait.
"It goes without saying that the stabilisation of the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for Japan's security, but it is also important for a stable international community as well."
SCMP reported that Liu Weidong, a professor of international relations with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Japan had taken a tougher line against China in recent months.
"Japan sees that Biden has not backtracked on the Trump era's tough policy on China. And it no longer sees the need to improve relations with China. Suga also needs to present a tougher international image to boost his weak domestic support," Liu said.
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