TOKYO - Japan, the United States and Australia on Wednesday expressed "deep concern" over China's recent implementation of a sweeping security law in Hong Kong that is feared will restrict human rights and freedoms in the territory.
In a video conference, the defense ministers of the three countries -- Taro Kono of Japan, Mark Esper of the United States and Linda Reynolds of Australia -- also agreed to enhance interoperability of their troops, in a veiled counter to an increasingly assertive China.
Many countries, including the three nations, have expressed concerns over the controversial legislation enacted last week, which targets secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces in the former British colony.
Apparently with China in mind, the three ministers also reaffirmed their "strong opposition" to the use of force or coercion that could alter the status quo and increase tensions in the East and South China seas, where Beijing has been stepping up territorial claims.
Speaking at a Diet session later Wednesday, Kono said, "Together with like-minded states, we would like to strongly oppose China's attempt" to force a shift in the regional status quo.
Kono told the House of Representatives Security Committee that Japan plans to create a system with countries such as the United States, Australia, the Philippines and Vietnam so as to keep China in check.
In the videoconference, the three ministers confirmed their "strong concern" over North Korea's repeated ballistic missile launches, saying they violated multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.
During the talks, which took place amid the coronavirus pandemic, they also discussed ways to mitigate the impact of the virus, including sharing information.