Seoul/Tokyo: US Secretary of State Anthony Brinken said on Wednesday that China is taking active and repressive actions and accused North Korea of ”systematic and widespread abuse” of its own people.
Blinken s remarks disclosed a fissure in Washington and Seoul s approach to China and North Korea, openly pressing South Korea to join hands in keeping Beijing in check and improving Pyongyang s human rights violations.
Blinken is visiting Japan and South Korea alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a first overseas trip by top level members of President Joe Biden s administration aimed at rebuilding U.S. alliances in Asia.
At talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong in Seoul, Blinken said China was using “coercion and aggression,” citing its posturing over Taiwan and Hong Kong and in the East and South China Seas where it has territorial rows with Japan and other Asian nations.
China’s extensive territorial claims in the East and South China Seas have become a priority issue in the increasingly brutal relations between Washington and Beijing.
Beijing’s territorial ambitions prompted Japan to seek closer ties with the United States, but the competition between China and the United States has brought challenges to Seoul, which is not eager to provoke China, its largest economic partner and North Korea’s main ally.
“China is using coercion and aggression to systematically erode the autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights and its regime in Tibet and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law,” Blinken said.
China s foreign ministry protested the joint statement, calling it a “malicious attack” and “gross interference in China s internal affairs.”
Blinken urged Seoul to “stand up to shared values” together to prevent a “dangerous erosion of democracy” in the region.
He told a roundtable of Japanese journalists in Tokyo earlier on Wednesday that China was raising tensions by “acting both more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad.”
The comments echoed a joint statement issued by Blinken, Austin and their Japanese counterparts after “2+2” talks in Tokyo, and come ahead of Blinken s first in-person meetings with Chinese counterparts planned for later this week in Alaska.
“We look forward to the opportunity to lay out in very clear terms to our Chinese counterparts some of the concerns that we have about the actions they re taking,” said Blinken.