Japan’s deputy defense minister has taken a tough stance against “aggressive” China, declaring Taiwan’s safety a “red line” and calling on US president-elect Joe Biden to “be strong” in backing the island territory claimed by Beijing in the face of a Chinese aggression.
“We are concerned China will expand its aggressive stance into areas other than Hong Kong. I think one of the next targets, or what everyone is worried about, is Taiwan,” said State Minister of Defense Yasuhide Nakayama on Friday in an interview with Reuters, urging Biden to adopt a similar position towards Taiwan.
“There’s a red line in Asia - China and Taiwan,” Nakayama emphasized, citing a red line that former US President Barack Obama declared over what he falsely alleged as Syria’s use of chemical weapons while Biden was his vice president.
“How will Joe Biden in the White House react in any case if China crosses this red line?” Nakayama then asked, claiming, “The United States is the leader of the democratic countries. I have a strong feeling to say: America, be strong!”
“So far, I haven’t yet seen a clear policy or an announcement on Taiwan from Joe Biden. I would like to hear it quickly, then we can also prepare our response on Taiwan in accordance,” Nakayama added.
The development came days after Japan's cabinet approved a record-high budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year that includes yet another military spending hike to counter China.
The budget proposal, approved on Monday by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's cabinet, marks the ninth successive annual increase and reflects a 3.8-percent rise from the current fiscal year, amounting to $1.03 trillion or 106.6 trillion yen.
"We will strengthen the capacity necessary for national defense... in order to keep pace with the security environment which is becoming increasingly tough," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato in a press briefing after the budget passage.
The government once again sought an all-time high military budget for the seventh straight year -- this time of 5.3 trillion yen, up half a percent compared to the 2020 fiscal year as Japan – which depends almost entirely on the US military for its national defense – is pushed to spend more to counter purported threats from neighboring China and North Korea.
Among the key items in Tokyo’s military expenditures are 57.6 billion yen for the development of a next-generation fighter jet and 33.5 billion yen to develop a new missile.
The strong anti-China remarks also came as Japan’s engagement with Taiwan has thrived in recent years on a largely non-governmental basis as the country still maintains a “one China” policy, delicately balancing its ties with neighboring Beijing and its key ally Washington, which has tasked itself with defending Japan with a massive military presence in the country.
Moreover, Tokyo shares strategic interests with Taiwan, which sits in sea lanes through which much of Japan’s energy supplies and trade flow.
An official in Biden’s transition team, meanwhile, said that the president-elect believes US support for Taiwan “must remain strong, principled, and bipartisan.”
“Once in office, he will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan,” the official added as quoted in the report.
'Taiwan is China’s internal affair'
Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin reiterated on Friday that “Taiwan is China’s internal affair,” adding, “We firmly oppose interference in China’s internal affairs by any country or anyone by any means.”
Wang made the remarks the same day the Japanese defense official unveiled the country’s strong anti-China stance in support for Taiwan.
Beijing in recent months has been angered by Washington’s surging support for Taiwan, including arms sales and visits to Taipei by senior US officials, further straining already poor Sino-US ties.
Under the internationally-recognized “One China” policy, almost all world countries — including the US — recognize Chinese sovereignty over the self-ruled Taiwan.
Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that should be reunited with the mainland, describes US ties with Taiwan and its arms sales to the island as a violation of China’s sovereignty.
In Taipei, meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou noted the strong bipartisan US support for Taiwan based on the “shared language” of freedom and democracy, saying, “Taiwan looks forward to working closely with the Biden team, to continue to steadily improve Taiwan-US relations on the basis of the existing solid friendship.”
Japan abandons military pacifism plans record arms buildup
Japan in 2016 revised its constitution – amid nationwide protests -- abandoning the nation’s official pacifist defense policy adopted following the World War II which banned the use of force as a means to resolve international disputes.
The constitution now allows Japan’s military forces to participate in foreign operations in order to protect allies such as the US even if there was no direct threat to Tokyo.
Then-Prime Minister Abe and his supporters viewed the former US-imposed constraints to the country’s constitution as hindering Japan from playing a robust role in international affairs.
Although critics slammed the move, saying it would damage 70 years of Japanese pacifism, Washington welcomed the reforms in face of concerns among Tokyo’s regional rivals, such as China and South Korea, perceiving the move as Japan’s potential expansion of its military scope.
Also in 2018, Japan approved plans to purchase more American stealth fighters and other equipment in order to boost its capabilities against regional powers such as Russia and China, a move that was widely considered as a collaborative effort with Washington.
According to the plan, Japan would purchase other US-made equipment, including two land-based Aegis Ashore air defense radars, four Boeing Co KC-46 Pegasus refueling planes, and nine Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye early-warning planes.
Japan had earlier announced that it will spend a record 242 billion dollars on military equipment over the next five years, 6.4 percent higher than the previous five-year plan.