Japan and the United States would not stand by if China attacked Taiwan, and the Chinese government needs to understand this, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said.
Tensions between China and Taiwan have risen as Chinese president, Xi Jinping seeks to assert his country’s sovereignty claims against the democratically ruled island.
Taiwan’s government says it wants peace, but will defend itself if needed and the US has been supplying Taiwan with weapons for the last four decades.
Speaking virtually to a forum organised by Taiwanese think tank the Institute for National Policy Research, Abe on Wednesday, December 1, said the Senkaku islands – which China calls the Diaoyu Islands are a mere 100 km (62 miles) or so away from Taiwan and will be a threat to Japan if captured by China.
“A Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-U.S. alliance. People in Beijing, President Xi Jinping in particular, should never have a misunderstanding in recognising this,” Abe said.
Japan is host to major U.S. military bases, including on the southern island of Okinawa, a short flight from Taiwan, which would be very important if the U.S were to offer support to Taiwan during a Chinese attack.
The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, though the US is not clear on whether it would send forces to help Taiwan in a war with China.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that United States and its allies would take unspecified “action” if China were to use force to alter the status quo over Taiwan.
Abe, who stepped down as prime minister last year, is head of the largest faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party , so his words are very powerful in the Japanese government.
Speaking on relations between Japan and China, Abe said Japan should advance its ties with China while firmly saying to its giant neighbour what needs to be said.
“Japan, Taiwan and all the people who believe in democracy need to keep urging President Xi Jinping and other Chinese Communist Party leaders repeatedly not to step onto a wrong path,” Abe said.
‘Japan and Taiwan must work together to protect freedom and democracy,’ added Abe, speaking to an audience that included Cheng Wen-tsan, mayor of the northern Taiwanese city of Taoyuan, tipped as a possible future presidential candidate.
“A stronger Taiwan, a thriving Taiwan, and a Taiwan that guarantees freedom and human rights are also in Japan’s interests. Of course, this is also in the interests of the whole world,” Abe said.