China and Russia are increasing their military collaboration, Japan’s foreign minister warns

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi expressed concern Saturday about Russian and Chinese military cooperation in Asia and said the security situation in Europe could not be separated from that in the Indo-Pacific region since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at a meeting of European and Indo-Pacific foreign ministers in Sweden, Hayashi said Russia’s war in Ukraine had “shaken the very foundation of the international order” and must face a united response by the international community.

“Otherwise, similar challenges will arise in other regions and the existing order which has underpinned our peace and prosperity could be fundamentally overturned,” Hayashi said.

Japan firmly backs Ukraine in the war but China says it remains neutral while declaring a ”no limits” relationship with Moscow and blaming the U.S. and NATO for provoking the conflict. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in March at the same time as Chinese President Xi Jinping met Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Hayashi accused Beijing of “continuing and intensifying its unilateral attempts” to change the status quo in the East and South China seas by force and increasing its military activities around Taiwan.

“In addition, China and Russia are strengthening their military collaboration, including joint flights of their bombers and joint naval exercises in the vicinity of Japan,” Hayahshi said.

China, which claims most of the South China Sea as well as Japanese-held islands in the East China Sea, says it has the right to defend its sovereignty and development interests.

Hayashi also warned that North Korea was “escalating provocations” in the region by conducting ballistic missile launches “with a frequency and in a manner that are unprecedented.”

He joined dozens of ministers from the European Union and the Indo-Pacific region for the meeting just north of the Swedish capital. China was not invited to the talks.

“Since the aggression of Russia to Ukraine, the security situation here in Europe and the security situation in the Pacific are not separable,” Hayashi said as he arrived.

Some of the Indo-Pacific countries, including India and Pakistan, have called for an end to the Ukraine war but stopped short of condemning Russia for it.

“We all try and address it in our own different ways,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said. “I think a lesson a country like Pakistan has learned is that percolation of conflict is never the answer; that we want an end to hostilities, an end to conflict, so people can go back to building lives rather than destroying more lives.”

Most EU countries have provided military support to Ukraine and the bloc has imposed sanctions on Russia. Asked whether the EU was hoping to convince Indo-Pacific countries to align with the bloc’s stance on the conflict, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said, “We don’t want to convince anyone. We just want to share our analysis of the causes and consequences of the war.”

He dismissed a question about whether it was possible to have a meaningful dialogue with the Indo-Pacific countries without China, saying the EU had plenty of other opportunities to talk to Beijing.

“We can perfectly discuss the Indo-Pacific without China,” Borrell said. “It doesn’t mean we neglect China. It doesn’t mean we want to substitute China. I don’t see where the problem is.”