TOKYO, Japan: A Japanese official has warned that if China invades Taiwan, the Japanese would come to the island nation’s defense.
Japan’s deputy prime minister Taro Aso said Japan would need to join with the United States to defend Taiwan if the island was invaded, according to the Kyodo news agency, as reported late on Monday.
The comments drew an angry response from China, which regards Taiwan as its own territory.
Observers note that China has never ruled out using force to reunite Taiwan with the mainland.
Additionally, recent military incursions and exercises by China have raised tensions with Taiwan.
“If a major problem took place in Taiwan, it would not be too much to say that it could relate to a survival-threatening situation (for Japan),” Aso said, while meeting with a fellow Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, according to Kyodo.
A “survival-threatening situation” refers to an armed attack against a foreign country that has close relations with Japan, thus posing a clear risk of threatening Japan’s survival.
According to Japanese law, an invasion of Taiwan would allow Japan to exercise its right of self-defense by coming to the aid of an ally under attack.
“We need to think hard that Okinawa could be the next,” Aso was quoted by Kyodo as saying.
Meanwhile, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that Aso’s remarks, “harmed the political foundation of China-Japan relations”, and China “resolutely opposed” them.
“No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s staunch resolve, firm will, and formidable ability to defend national sovereignty,” he said.
China claims ownership of Japanese islands in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
The islands are located off Japan’s southern island of Okinawa.
Aso, however, added that any actions over Taiwan should be resolved through dialogue.
“We are closely monitoring the situation,” Aso told reporters.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Monday that he was not aware of the Aso comments in detail, but reiterated Japan’s official policy on the matter.
“Japan hopes the Taiwan issue will be resolved through direct dialogue between parties concerned in a peaceful manner. That has been our consistent stance,” the top government spokesman said.