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Hong Kong protests

After defying 4-nation call, Japan seeks G-7 statement on Hong Kong

Tokyo wants united front in urging Beijing to maintain 'one country, two systems'

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga have stressed Tokyo's concern about the situation in Hong Kong.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- After declining to join four Western allies in condemning China's Hong Kong security legislation last month, Japan has proposed drafting a statement by Group of Seven foreign ministers regarding Beijing's move, Nikkei has learned.

The proposed joint statement would express worry and concern toward the legislation and urge Beijing to maintain the "one country, two systems" framework that guarantees Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.

The decision reflects the tightrope Tokyo walks between Washington and Beijing. The government was scheduled to invite Chinese President Xi Jinping as a state guest in April, his first official visit to Japan as top leader, in what would have been the start of a new era between the two Asian neighbors.

That visit was postponed due to the coronavirus, and in the ensuing weeks, U.S.-China relations have soured into what some categorize as a new Cold War.

Japan opted not to join a statement condemning Beijing issued by the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Canada on May 28, the day that China passed the legislation, reportedly disappointing the signatories.

Beijing's new law on Hong Kong, which paves the way to extending the mainland's security powers over the city, is regarded by the city's residents and Western leaders as a threat to the territory's autonomy.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday told the lower house that he was "deeply concerned about the Hong Kong situation."

"It is important to coordinate closely with relevant countries, including in the G-7, that share our basic values," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Monday, echoing Abe's sentiment.

On May 28, Suga had said Japan was "deeply concerned" about the security law. Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba summoned Chinese Ambassador Kong Xuanyou that day to convey Tokyo's position.

Defending Japan's response, Suga said on Monday, "Japan has communicated its strong stance to the Chinese side through direct high-level talks and sent a clear signal to the international community."

Tokyo hopes that a show of unity by the G-7 leading industrial nations in the form of a joint statement will demonstrate international concern about the issue. But certain countries in the group are wary about issuing a statement on the matter, and working-level talks are ongoing, said a Japanese government source familiar with the situation.

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