The statement from the East Asian nation, however, drew a sharp response from China who said it “harmed the political foundation of China-Japan relations” and held that Beijing resolutely opposed them.
On Tuesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian warned that “no one should underestimate the Chinese people’s staunch resolve, firm will, and formidable ability to defend national sovereignty.”
According to Kyodo news agency on Monday, Mr Aso, while speaking at a fundraising party by a fellow Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, said: “If a major problem took place in Taiwan, it would not be too much to say that it could relate to a survival-threatening situation (for Japan).”
Such a situation refers to an instance where an armed attack is carried out against a foreign country that is in a close relationship with Japan. In turn, it would pose a risk to Japan’s survival. Such a situation is one of the conditions that need to be met for Japan to exercise its right of collective self-defence, or coming to the aid of an ally under attack.
Japan’s concern stems from the fact that Beijing has never ruled out the use of force against Taiwan to unite it with the Chinese mainland. Last week, China’s President Xi Jinping had even pledged a “reunification” with Taiwan which drew a strong rebuke from Taipei.
China has a long-running dispute with Taiwan which it claims is an inseparable part of China - a claim Taipei opposes. As a result, Taiwan has been trying to seek support from many countries including the US, India and Japan against China’s aggression.
We need to think hard that Okinawa could be the next
Taro Aso, Japan’s Deputy PM
Over the last two years, Taiwan has repeatedly highlighted China’s incursions into Taipei’s airspace. The island nation has even warned that after China’s steps to control Hong Kong, it would shift its focus to Taiwan.
China also claims a group of Japanese-controlled islets in the East China Sea. The tiny uninhabited isles, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are off Japan’s southern island of Okinawa.
Mr Aso said: “We need to think hard that Okinawa could be the next.”
The deputy prime minister of Japan said any contingency over Taiwan should be resolved through dialogue. “We are closely monitoring the situation,” he said.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato declined to comment on Mr Aso’s remarks but reiterated Japan’s official policy on the matter.
“Japan hopes the Taiwan issue will be resolved through direct dialogue between parties concerned in a peaceful manner. That has been our consistent stance,” he said.
Additional reporting by agencies