The military balance between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is increasingly in China’s favor and that gap grows every year, Japanese Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi said on Friday, adding that Tokyo must monitor the imbalance to protect Japan’s national interests.
Kishi made the remark in an interview with the Tokyo Broadcasting System in response to a question about the country’s policy should a crisis occurs in the Strait.
Describing the US Indo-Pacific Command as having a “precipitous view” of the military situation, Kishi said that the military balance between both sides of the Strait was shifting in China’s favor.
The Japanese government’s position is that issues between Taiwan and China should be resolved peacefully, he said, adding that it was difficult to comment on hypothetical situations.
Tokyo’s priority is to be fully aware of developments and protect the peace and safety of its citizens, he added.
Kishi said that Beijing’s efforts to increase its influence in the region are the main cause of a change in the situation in the Strait and of rising tensions over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan — which are also claimed by Taiwan and China.
For China, Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines are obstacles to its expansion into the Pacific Ocean by way of the Miyako Strait, he said, adding that this is the reason for Beijing emphasizing that Taiwan is a “core interest.”
China has stepped up military activities near Taiwan, including with the passage of the aircraft carrier Liaoning through the Taiwan Strait and the Bashi Channel, and warplane patrols that lean into Taiwan’s airspace, he said.
These activities threaten not only nations in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, but the concept of free and open waters, Kishi said.
Beijing’s attempts to change the “status quo” by force and to challenge freedom of movement in the region could negatively affect the development and stability of Japan, which depends on the sea to connect with the world, he said.
Regarding Japan’s participation with the US and France in naval exercises in the Middle East and a planned visit by Britain’s HMS Queen Elizabeth, Kishi said that China’s interest in altering the “status quo” by force has also been concerning to European nations, including the UK, France and Belgium.
It is necessary for Japan to augment deterrence by working with the US and other countries, he added.
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