TOKYO (AP) — Japan believes rising tension surrounding Taiwan requires its attention “with a sense of crisis” as China intensifies military activities in the area and the United States steps up support for the self-governing island.
Japan's concerns about Taiwan, Beijing’s growing rivalry with the United States and China’s increasingly assertive military actions in the region were added to an annual Defense Ministry paper that was adopted Tuesday by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Cabinet.
“Stabilizing the Taiwan situation is important for Japan’s national security and stability of the international community,” the paper said. “We need to pay close attention with a sense of crisis more than ever before.”
As China flexes its muscle in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region, Taiwan has become a regional flashpoint, as Japan, the United States and other democracies develop closer ties with the self-ruled island that Beijing regards as a renegade territory to be united by force if necessary.
“As China rapidly enhances its military power, changes in the military power balance between the United states and China may possibly affect the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region,” the report said. “It is necessary to pay greater attention to the military trends of the two countries in areas such as the South China Sea and Taiwan.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian called the report “extremely erroneous and irresponsible."
“We will never allow any country to interfere with the Taiwan issue in any way. China must and will surely be reunified, and it is in the best interest of regional peace and stability for China to achieve complete reunification," Zhao said at a daily briefing.
Taiwan was a Japanese colony for 50 years until 1945 and connections between the two remain strong.
China has expanded its military capability over the past 20 years, with its defense spending at least 16 times that of Taiwan, with the gap increasing each year, the paper said. China’s military budget of $181.6 billion is four times that of Japan, it said.
China has also increased Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation, leaving it with just over a dozen formal diplomatic allies. Taiwan still operates a network of trade offices that act as de facto embassies, including in the United States, Japan and most other major nations.
Japan is increasingly worried about Taiwan’s security implications amid rising tension between Beijing and Washington. The United States, Japan's most important ally, has increased its military support for Taiwan, including dispatching warships to the Taiwan Strait and arms sales.
China’s increased military capability and the lack of clarity to its defense spending “have become a matter of grave concern to the region including Japan and the international community,” the paper said.
It also criticized China over its “relentless attempts to unilaterally change the status quo” of disputed Japanese-controlled East China Sea islands called Senkaku, which China also claims and calls Diaoyu, calling it “a violation of international law.”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Chinese vessels have remained just outside Japanese territorial waters around Senkaku for 150 straight days as of Monday, describing it as “an extremely grave situation.”
China also claims almost all of the South China Sea, has built military bases on artificial islands in the disputed area and routinely objects to any action by the U.S. military in the region. The United States has no claims itself to the waters but has deployed warships and aircraft for decades to patrol and promote freedom of navigation and overflight in the busy waterway.