Tokyo’s high-wire Uighur act

The hosting of the annual World Uighur Congress in Tokyo is intended to provoke Beijing. Unsurprisingly, Beijing promptly hit out, expressing “strong dissatisfaction” over the Japanese move.

The Japan-China relationship doesn’t need additional tension. Besides, to kick the dragon butt to provoke Beijing’s ire by hosting a high-wire Uighur act just after what seems from all appearances a good visit by the Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to China seems incomprehensible.

Indeed, the hosting of the annual World Uighur Congress in Tokyo is intended to provoke Beijing. Unsurprisingly, Beijing promptly hit out, expressing “strong dissatisfaction” over the Japanese move. Beijing also marked its displeasure by turning down Noda’s request for a second meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao.

Japan is appearing at the Uighur barricades at a time when the Shanghai Cooperation Organization [SCO] is all set to admit Turkey as an observer. The SCO has a common stance with regard to ‘three evils’, one of which is separatism. China has successfully used the SCO to cleanse the Turkic world of the traces of Uighur militancy.  

Beijing seems to appreciate Turkey’s nuanced stance despite the presence of the Uighur diaspora in Istanbul and the Muslim affinity. Beijing recently hosted a 4-day visit by Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which was the first such visit in the past 27 years. Interestingly, Erdogan began his visit to China with a halt in Xinjiang.

Beijing counts on Ankara’s pragmatic foreign policy and is willing to offer a strategic partnership, which is full of promise of investment and trade. (Erdogan took a 300-strong trade delegation to China.)

On the other hand, Beijing is adamant about rejecting Japan’s (or US’) 3-year old application for SCO observer status. The high publicity in the US government-funded media suggests a coordinated strategy even as the SCO summit takes place on June 6-7 and Beijing has pledged “utmost efforts to ensure the success” of the meeting. 

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