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International relations

Japan trades words with China over Uyghurs and Hong Kong

Chinese foreign minister Wang says world's No. 2 and 3 economies need to cooperate

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, left, spoke on the phone for roughly 90 minutes with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on April 5.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- Japan has "serious concerns" over China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims and Hong Kong, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in a telephone call on Monday.

Motegi urged the Chinese side to take specific actions on the two matters, according to a readout from Japan's foreign ministry. In response, Wang said China opposes "interference in its internal affairs," according to a news release by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Monday's talks follow a flare-up in tensions between the Asian neighbors last week, when Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying accused Japan of "sowing discord."

During the roughly 90-minute conversation, which was proposed by the Chinese side, Wang said the two countries should "cooperate for mutual benefit, and work together for the region and the world" as the world's second- and third-largest economies, according to the Chinese statement.

China is accused of committing human rights abuses against the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, and Beijing has tightened its grip on financial hub Hong Kong.

Motegi also expressed concerns about the repeated incursions of Chinese government vessels near the Japanese-administered Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.

Wang responded by repeating Beijing's territorial claims on the islands, which China calls the Diaoyu, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Motegi also voiced concern over China's activities in the South China Sea, as well as the country's new law that empowers coast guard vessels to fire on foreign flagged ships within maritime jurisdiction determined by China.

On the military coup in Myanmar, Motegi said Japan urges the junta to quickly restore civilian government. Wang and Motegi agreed that cooperation by the international community is key to resolving the crisis, according to the Japanese readout.

Regarding North Korea, the ministers confirmed cooperation toward denuclearization. Motegi and Wang agreed on the importance of carrying out United Nations Security Council resolutions on Pyongyang.

The diplomats expressed hope for advancing bilateral exchanges and dialogue in a wide range of areas ahead of next year's 50th anniversary of the two countries normalizing relations.

Motegi reiterated Japan's call for a lifting of Chinese import restrictions on Japanese food products. Beijing shut the doors on foodstuffs from Fukushima Prefecture and other parts of Japan in response to the 2011 nuclear disaster.

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