Japan and the US would have to defend Taiwan together in the event of a major problem, Kyodo News reported Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso as saying, marking some of the highest-level remarks from Tokyo on the sensitive subject.
In comments at a political fundraising party in Tokyo on Monday, Aso said an invasion of Taiwan by China could be seen as an existential threat, allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, Kyodo reported.
Japan has sought to avoid alienating China, its biggest trading partner, while maintaining its alliance with the US amid tensions between the world’s two largest economies over topics ranging from the origins of COVID-19 to human rights.
Aso told reporters yesterday that the most desirable outcome was for the parties involved to reach a peaceful solution through direct talks.
“We have to think about various situations, such as not being able to pass through the Taiwan Strait,” Aso said. “It’s difficult to say overall which would be an existential threat.”
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference that he did not know the details of Aso’s comments on defending Taiwan and declined to comment on them.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said it is glad that the international community is concerned with stability in the Taiwan Strait, adding that Taiwan would continue to work with like-minded nations to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait.
China, on the other hand, said Aso’s comments were “extremely wrong and dangerous.”
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) told a regular news conference in Beijing that “we will never allow any country in any way to interfere in the Taiwan question, and nobody should underestimate the Chinese people’s strong determination, will and ability to safeguard national sovereignty.”
Tensions have grown around Taiwan in the past few months, with China sending 28 military planes close to the nation last month, the largest exercise this year.
Japanese Minister of Defense Yasuhide Nakayama said in a presentation to a Washington think tank last month that China presented a growing threat and it was necessary to protect Taiwan as a “democratic country.”
Chinese officials urged Japan to disavow Nakayama’s remarks, which they described as sinister, irresponsible and dangerous.
Kato said the comments represented a personal view.
While Japan’s pacifist constitution limits the scope of its armed forces, a 2015 reinterpretation of the document allows it to send troops to overseas conflicts in some circumstances.
Additional reporting by CNA
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