A regional ministerial meeting bringing together 18 Asia-Pacific countries exposed a rift Friday over China's ongoing military drills near Taiwan in response to a high-level U.S. visit to the island and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, conference sources said.
Participants in the foreign ministerial session of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh including the United States, Japan, China and Russia traded barbs over the Taiwan issue and Ukraine crisis, they said.
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi urged Beijing to immediately stop the military exercise involving missile launches conducted in response to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent visit to the self-ruled island, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
On Thursday, five of the ballistic missiles launched in the exercise fell into Japan's exclusive economic zone, according to the Japanese government. Multiple countries rapped China's firing of them, the ministry said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi rebutted Hayashi's claim, saying Japan and China have yet to demarcate the waters, according to Association of Southeast Asian Nations sources.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the military had issued safety alerts and there were no areas that could be called Japan's EEZ in the relevant waters.
Japan had conveyed concern to the Chinese side before the exercise began Thursday that a Chinese-designated military training area overlaps with the Japanese EEZ.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended Pelosi's Taiwan visit at the EAS session, saying it was a "peaceful" trip and "not provocation," according to the ASEAN sources.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (C) is pictured at a foreign ministerial meeting of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh on Aug. 5, 2022. (Kyodo)
In the meeting that involved the 10 ASEAN members, Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, the United States and Russia, Wang and Russia's Sergey Lavrov walked out when Hayashi spoke.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman indicated at the press conference on Friday that Wang's action at the meeting was related to Japan's criticism of China's response to Pelosi's visit, saying Tokyo behaved "quite poorly" on the Taiwan issue and angered Chinese people.
Hayashi, along with Blinken and other participants, condemned Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, which began in late February, according to the Japanese ministry and ASEAN sources.
The top diplomats met a day after the Chinese military started large-scale, live-fire drills planned through Sunday near Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland.
On the first day of the military exercise, 11 ballistic missiles were fired near the self-ruled island, according to Taiwan's Defense Ministry.
On Thursday, China abruptly canceled a planned bilateral meeting between Hayashi and Wang due to a Group of Seven statement that criticized China's response to Pelosi's Taiwan visit. Japan and the United States are among the G-7 members.
Hayashi said the decision to cancel was "regrettable," and told a press conference on Friday after attending a series of ASEAN-related ministerial meetings, that "communication is now more important than ever amid growing tensions" between the countries.
The regional meeting also came amid Russia's deepening rift with the West and other nations including Japan, which have introduced severe economic sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
China has not joined the punitive steps to isolate Russia. Instead, it has been apparently intensifying joint military activities with Moscow, especially in and above waters around Japan.
Among EAS members, China, India, Vietnam and Laos abstained from voting in March on a U.N. General Assembly resolution urging Russia to stop its aggression in Ukraine.