Feb 11 , 2021. 16 minutes ago – 06:22 KYODO NEWS
TOKYO – Japan and the United States “strongly condemn” Myanmar’s escalation of police force against those protesting last week’s military coup, and demand that local authorities stop the violence against civilians, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
During a call between Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the two also shared their concerns over China’s new coast guard law, which is feared will raise tensions around the Japan-administered, China-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Earlier this month, China put into effect the controversial legislation that allows its coast guard to use weapons against foreign ships that it sees as illegally entering its waters.
Motegi and Blinken agreed to work steadily toward beefing up cooperation among four Indo-Pacific democracies known as the Quad — Japan, the United States, Australia and India — as well as toward a “free and open” region amid China’s growing assertiveness.
The phone talks between the top diplomats were the second in less than a month, underscoring the close ties between the two countries. Their first call took place just hours after Blinken won Senate confirmation to lead the State Department on Jan. 26.
The latest exchange also came amid continuing protests in Myanmar against the military coup.
As protesters defied a ban on large gatherings and their numbers grew into the hundreds of thousands on Tuesday, police fired warning shots and rubber bullets, and some injuries were reported including a young woman on life support after being shot in the head.
According to the Japanese ministry, Motegi and Blinken expressed grave concern over the situation in Myanmar and agreed to strongly urge the Myanmar military to release civilian leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi and others who have been detained since the Feb. 1 coup.
“We will continue to closely cooperate” on the issue, the ministry said in a press release.
But the two did not discuss sanctions, according to a ministry official.
Rather than following the United States in imposing sanctions immediately, the Japanese government is maintaining a cautious stance at present amid concerns that isolating Myanmar could push the country toward dependence on China.
Hours after the phone call, U.S. President Joe Biden announced plans to sanction Myanmar military leaders behind the coup.
State Department spokesman Ned Price did not unveil the specifics of the conversation between Motegi and Blinken but emphasized that Washington wants to make sure U.S. efforts on the Myanmar issue are known to allies and “to the extent possible calibrated with them.”
“Working with our closest partners, our like-minded partners around the world, we can have the most impact, we can impose the most substantial costs on those who are responsible for this coup,” he said at a press conference Wednesday.