Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that an attack on a U.S. military vessel in any contingency concerning Taiwan could become a situation allowing Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense.

During a virtual appearance at a Taiwan think tank event on Dec. 1, Abe said that any Taiwan contingency would also be an emergency for Japan and for the Japan-U.S. security alliance, stressing the need to keep pushing for clarity on the issue with Chinese leadership.

Abe elaborated on his earlier remarks on a TV program that aired Monday.

Shinzo Abe | KYODO
Shinzo Abe | KYODO

"In the event of an attack on a U.S. vessel, it could be a situation posing a threat to Japan's survival, which would allow the exercise of collective self-defense," he said.

Pointing out that Yonaguni Island — Japan's westernmost territory — is only 110 kilometers away from Taiwan, he said, "If something happens here, it will definitely become a crucial situation" affecting Japan's peace and security as stipulated in the country's security legislation.

With such a condition met, the Self-Defense Forces would be allowed to extend logistical support to the U.S. military.

His earlier remarks on Taiwan drew criticism from China, which regards the self-ruled island as a renegade province to be unified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Communist-led China and Taiwan have been governed separately since they split in 1949 as the result of a civil war.

Abe stepped down as prime minister in 2020 after nearly eight years in the post, but he still heads the largest faction within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.