Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi recently said that his country will provide a “necessary response” to China if Beijing continues with its military aggression towards Taiwan and sparks a conflict.
China had been increasing its military presence near Taiwan and the Senkaku Islands of Japan, claiming these regions to be its territory. In June, Beijing sent more than two dozen warplanes near Taiwan, triggering the island nation to put its air defenses on alert. Back in 2019, Chinese premier Xi Jinping vowed to “reunify” Taiwan with China and even deploy military force if necessary.
In an interview with CNN, Minister Kishi said that what is happening in Taiwan “is directly linked to Japan.” Taiwan is located at the nexus of the East and South China Seas, making it “geopolitically and strategically important.” Stability and peace in Taiwan are not just critical for the region, but for the international community as well.
“More than ninety percent of the energy that Japan uses is imported through the sea around Taiwan, so it’s important to maintain the maritime order and a free and open Indo-Pacific… Because we are close geographically, what could happen in Taiwan could likely be an issue for Japan, and in that case, Japan will have to take the necessary response to that situation,” Kishi said.
As to Beijing’s claims over the Senkaku islands, the minister insisted that there are absolutely no grounds to call the issue a “territorial dispute.” According to Kishi, Japan maintains complete and unequivocal sovereignty over the islands which, though small and uninhabited, are located strategically.
“Against Chinese action to Senkaku Islands and other parts of the East China Sea… we have to demonstrate that the government of Japan is resolutely defending our territory with the greater number of Japanese coast guard vessels than that of China,” he added.
On Sept. 12, Kishi said during a press conference that there were sightings of what was believed to be a Chinese submarine near its southern islands. A submerged vessel was spotted right outside the territorial waters near Amami Oshima island, which is a part of Kagoshima prefecture. A Chinese destroyer was spotted in the vicinity as well.
Japanese authorities have accused Chinese Coast Guard vessels of intruding into its territorial waters (12 nautical miles off the coast) 88 times between Jan. 1 and the end of August. In the contiguous zone, which refers to waters between the Japanese islands but not within 12 miles of the coast, Chinese vessels have intruded 851 times. Kishi calls these incursions “actions that continue to challenge an integral part of Japan’s sovereign territory.”