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Rishi Sunak tells China: don’t try to seize Taiwan by ‘force or coercion’

Rishi Sunak sent a strong warning to China on Thursday against seeking to seize Taiwan by “force or coercion”.

Speaking from an aircraft carrier at the Yokosuka Naval Base ahead of a G7 summit in Japan, the Prime Minister stressed Britain’s determination to keep the Indo-Pacific region “free and open”.

WIth Beijing having deployed warships amid growing tensions over Taiwan’s future, Mr Sunak announced a new defence deal with Tokyo and highlighted the Aukus nuclear-powered submarine pact with Australia.

“We share with Japan a belief in a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

“It’s very important and we are increasing our engagement in the region to work with allies, like Australia, like Japan, to ensure that the Pacific region does remain free and open.

“We don’t want to see any change to the status quo by force or coercion.”

The UK, like most other countries, does not officially recognise Taiwan, nor maintain formal diplomatic relations with the island.

But the British government says the dispute between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China should be resolved “through dialogue, in line with the views of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait”.

Sunak with reporters on the flight to Tokyo (PA)
Sunak with reporters on the flight to Tokyo (PA)

On the plane to Tokyo, Mr Sunak told reporters one of his priorities for the summit was ensuring “we as G7 allies are aligned in our approach to protecting ourselves against the risks and challenges that China poses”.

Mr Sunak unveiled a new agreement with Japan to foster closer defence, security and cyber ties amid growing concerns about the threat from China.

He committed to Britain deploying a naval battle fleet in the Indo-Pacific in 2025 and to double UK troop numbers in upcoming joint exercises.

He was also due to agree to to launch a partnership on semiconductors in order to reduce the reliance on Beijing for the supply of the essential microchips before attending the G7 summit.

The “Hiroshima Accord” will be formally agreed on Thursday between Mr Sunak and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida ahead of the meeting of world leaders in the city hit by the atom bomb.

The Prime Minister will share talks with world leaders including Joe Biden during the summit, which is expected to focus on economic security and support for Ukraine.

But he will not hold more personal bilateral talks with the US president, instead sitting down with Mr Kishida, France’s Emmanuel Macron and India’s Narendra Modi.

Mr Sunak will be joined by his wife Akshata Murty, as she joins the G7’s “partners’ programme” in her first official foreign visit since they entered No 10.

Under the agreement with Japan, Mr Sunak will commit to deploy the Navy’s carrier Strike Group to the Indo-Pacific in 2025.

Including an aircraft carrier and fighter jets, the fleet will work with the Japanese military and other allies to defend peace and stability in the region.

A fourth UK-Japan “vigilant isles” military exercise taking place in Japan later this year is being billed as the biggest yet and will include around 170 UK service personnel.

The UK and Japan are also expected to commit to consulting each other on key regional and global security issues and to consider measures in response.

They will also launch the semiconductors partnership to make use of British expertise and Japan’s materials to bolster supply chains amid concerns over Chinese dominance.

A new cyber partnership will be announced to deepen co-operation, as will plans to accelerate use of clean energy.

Mr Sunak will also host a business reception in the Roppongi Hills of Tokyo, with the bosses of Toshiba, Nissan and Hitachi, as well as UK firm Octopus Energy, invited.

At the G7 summit starting on Friday, Mr Sunak will discuss shoring up support and holding Vladimir Putin’s Russia to account among his priorities.

The Prime Minister will reflect on the “sombre reminder of the human cost of all-out war” while visiting Hiroshima, where he will plant a tree to remember victims of the atom bomb.

Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said: “The visit is a crucial opportunity to build our relationship with Japan, already one of the UK’s strongest and most important partners.

“The summit is an opportunity for the G7 to demonstrate unified resolve and action in the face of threats from autocratic states - threats to global prosperity, security and sovereignty.”