Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga referred to Taiwan as a country, immediately drawing fire on Thursday from China, which regards the island as a renegade province.

In his first one-on-one parliamentary debate with opposition leaders Wednesday, Suga, naming Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan, said, "Such three countries have been imposing strong restrictions on privacy rights" to curb the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Self-governed Taiwan is usually called a "region" in Japan, with the communist-led Chinese government claiming the island is an "inalienable part" of its territory.