China’s foreign ministry said that Japan’s deputy defence minister Yasuhide Nakayama’s characterisation of Taiwan as a “country” was “erroneous and a serious violation,” Reuters reported.
Joining a discussion at the Hudson Institute think tank, Mr Nakayama on Monday wondered whether the decision by several countries, including the US and Japan, to follow the “one-China” policy that recognised Beijing’s government over Taipei’s since the 1970s, would stand the test of time.
He was speaking on the subject of “transformation of Japanese security strategy and its implications for the US-Japan alliance.”
“Was it right?” he asked. “I don’t know,” he said. According to Reuters, the official also called on democracies to stand up to growing Chinese pressure on Taiwan.
Mr Nakayama cited Japan and Taiwan’s geographical proximity to stress that any political turbulence in the latter would affect Japan’s Okinawa prefecture which has a major US military presence.
“So we have to protect Taiwan as a democratic country.”
“Japan and Taiwan are really close,” the Japanese Times quoted Mr Nakayama as saying. “We are not friends of Taiwan, we are brothers.”
He went on to say that under President Xi Jinping’s leadership China had “aggressive, aggressive ... thought and will.”
“So wake up. We have to wake up,” he said.
China claims Taiwan as an integral part of its territory and takes exception to any government referring to the area as a country. The “One China” policy accepts Beijing as the legitimate Chinese government and many governments, including Japan’s, call Taiwan a region instead of a country.
In 1972 Japan shifted its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing to honour the “One China” policy.
“We deplore the erroneous remarks by the senior official of the Japanese government, and we have lodged solemn representations,” Reuters quoted Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin as saying.
“This is highly sinister, dangerous and irresponsible. This politician also openly called Taiwan a country, in serious violation of the China-Japan joint statement,” Mr Wenbin said.
“We urge the Japanese government to make a clarification and ensure this will not happen again,” he said.
Earlier this month, China said it lodged “stern protests” after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made a reference to Taiwan as a country during a parliamentary meeting.
“Japanese leaders flagrantly refer to Taiwan as a ‘country’ on multiple occasions, severely violating principles set out in the four political documents including the Sino-Japanese Joint Statement and its solemn and repeated commitment of not seeing Taiwan as a country,” Mr Wenbin said.
Following China’s protest, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said “Japan’s position is to maintain relations with Taiwan as practical and non-governmental. That’s our basic policy and there is no change to that.”