The security of Taiwan is directly linked with that of Japan, Japanese Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi said on Thursday, as tensions around Taiwan build up and its defenses are increasingly overshadowed by China’s military might.
The comments from a Cabinet minister known for his close ties to Taipei came a week after China sent 28 warplanes near Taiwan, in the latest ratcheting up of military pressure around the nation, 110km from Japan at its nearest point.
“The peace and stability of Taiwan are directly connected to Japan, and we are closely monitoring ties between China and Taiwan, as well as Chinese military activity,” Kishi said in an interview.
“As China strengthens its military, its balance with Taiwan is tipping heavily to the Chinese side,” he said, adding that the gap is widening every year.
Taiwan is crucial for Tokyo, with the Luzon Strait to the south of Japan an important shipping lane for the energy tankers that resource-poor Japan relies on to power its economy.
On April 17, Kishi visited Yonaguni, the nearest Japanese island to Taiwan, and the Fuji News Network reported him as saying days later at a ruling party seminar that if Taiwan “turns red,” the situation might change drastically, and Japan needs to be ready for that.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the comments reckless and irresponsible.
The younger brother of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, Kishi was among a group of lawmakers who visited Taipei last year to convey condolences over the death of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).
Taiwan has become an increasingly important topic for the US and its allies, many of whom are concerned about China’s growing assertiveness near the country, whose semiconductor industry has become a linchpin of the global supply chain.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and US President Joe Biden emphasized the importance of reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait following their April summit, the first mention of the issue in a joint statement since 1969.
In the same statement, Japan, whose pacifist constitution leaves it heavily dependent on the US for its “nuclear umbrella,” vowed to bolster its own defense capabilities.
In other news, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi yesterday said that Japan would soon give Taiwan a second donation of 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccines would arrive by the middle of next month, Motegi told a news conference, three weeks after Japan donated 1.24 million doses to Taiwan.
The donations are a gesture of gratitude for Taiwan’s aid to Japan in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, Motegi said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei issued a statement, thanking Japan for its generosity.
Additional reporting by CNA
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