The Japanese vice premier said the country must defend Taiwan along with the United States if the island is invaded, Kyodo news agency reported on Monday, angering Beijing for considering Taiwan as its own territory.
China has never ruled out the use of force to reunite Taiwan with the mainland, and recent military exercises by China and Taiwan across the Taiwan Strait have escalated tensions.
“If a major problem were to arise in Taiwan, it would not be an exaggeration to say that it could be linked to a situation which puts its survival in danger [for Japan]Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said at a fundraising evening hosted by a fellow Liberal Democrat MP, Kyodo said.
A “survival threatening situation” refers to a situation in which an armed attack on a foreign country that has close relations with Japan occurs, which in turn poses a clear risk of threatening the survival of Japan.
Such a situation is one of the conditions to be fulfilled for Japan to be able to exercise its right of collective self-defense, or to come to the aid of an attacked ally.
“We have to seriously think about the fact that Okinawa could be next,” said Aso, quoted by Kyodo.
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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press conference on Tuesday that Aso’s remarks “undermine the political foundations of Sino-Japanese relations” and that China ” resolutely opposed it “.
“No one should underestimate the unwavering determination, steadfast will and tremendous ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty,” he said.
China claims a group of Japanese-controlled islets in the East China Sea. The tiny uninhabited islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, lie off the island of Okinawa in southern Japan.
Aso, when asked about Japan’s position on the cross-strait issue at a press conference on Tuesday, said any eventuality regarding Taiwan should be resolved through dialogue.
“We are monitoring the situation closely,” Aso, who is also finance minister, told reporters.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, when asked whether Aso’s comment on Monday was in line with the government’s position, declined to comment, saying he was unaware of the comment by ‘Aso in detail, but reiterated Japan’s official policy in this matter.
“Japan hopes that the Taiwan issue will be resolved through direct dialogue between the concerned parties in a peaceful manner. This has been our steadfast position,” the government spokesman said.