Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said China should be aware that any crisis with Taiwan would pull in Japan and its ally the United States, warning of a dire situation if Beijing takes military action against Taipei.
Delivering a speech by video to an audience in Taiwan on Wednesday, Abe said actions by an increasingly powerful China toward Japan and Taiwan were likely to become more complex, blurring the line between war and peace. The comments were some of the most pointed by a prominent Tokyo politician on tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
“A military adventure would be the path to economic suicide,” Abe said. “We must keep reiterating that peaceful ties between China and Taiwan are the only option.”
The remarks by Abe, who stepped down as prime minister last year citing ill health, come after China sent a fresh sortie of warplanes toward Taiwan on Sunday in response to a visit by a group of U.S. lawmakers.
China’s Communist Party sees the island as part of its territory despite never having ruled it, and seeks to block any official interactions with other countries.
Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party asserts the island is a de facto sovereign nation awaiting wider international recognition and not part of Chinese territory.
An armed invasion of Taiwan would be a grave danger to Japan, Abe said.
“A Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-U.S. alliance,” he said. “People in Beijing, President Xi Jinping in particular, should never have a misunderstanding in recognizing this.”
Democratic peoples should continually remind Xi and Chinese Communist Party officials not to take the wrong path, Abe said. While China is large, its links with the rest of the world mean that any aggression on its part would hurt its own economy, he added.
Spooked by Beijing’s clampdown in Hong Kong, senior Japanese lawmakers have been increasingly speaking out about the importance of Taiwan to Japan’s security, sparking irritation from Beijing.
Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said the Taiwan Strait may be the next major diplomatic problem facing Tokyo, and that Japan should seek to cooperate with Taiwan and countries that share its values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
Abe also called for Taiwan to have a greater voice on the world stage, including at the World Health Organization, and said he supported Taipei’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
China is also seeking to join the regional trade agreement. Japan’s current leaders have not given a clear opinion on how the competing applications should be handled.
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