Japan: PM Outrages China by Calling Taiwan a ‘Country’

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on May 28, 2021, as the government expanded a coronavirus state of emergency. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
BEHROUZ MEHRI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

China’s Foreign Ministry said it had “lodged a solemn protest against Japan” Thursday in response to remarks made by Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide on Wednesday in which he correctly referred to Taiwan as a “country.”

“In his first one-on-one parliamentary debate with opposition leaders Wednesday [June 9], Suga, naming Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan, said, ‘Such three countries have been imposing strong restrictions on privacy rights’ to curb the novel coronavirus outbreak,” Japan’s Kyodo News reported June 10.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin responded to Suga’s reference to Taiwan as a “country” when asked about the matter by the Paper — a digital newspaper controlled by China’s ruling Communist Party — at a regular press briefing June 10.

“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,” Wang told reporters in Beijing.

“China expresses strong dissatisfaction with Japan’s erroneous remarks and has lodged a solemn protest against Japan, ” he said. “We ask Japan to make prompt clarification, remove the severe damage and ensure that such things won’t happen again.”

Continuing, Weng said:

There is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. The Taiwan question bears on the political foundation of China-Japan relations, the basic trust and good faith between the two countries and the international rule of law and justice.

We seriously urge the Japanese side to earnestly honor its commitment, be prudent in words and actions, avoid undermining China’s sovereignty in any form and refrain from sending any wrong signal to the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces.

Beijing considers Taiwan to be a renegade Chinese province and has threatened to “reunify” the island nation with China by force if necessary. Taiwan has never been part of a government ruled from Beijing.

Suga’s remarks affirming Taiwanese sovereignty come amid rising geopolitical tension between Tokyo and Beijing over China’s increasing encroachment on Japanese maritime territory in the East China Sea, particularly near the Senkaku Islands. China illegally claims ownership of the Senkakus, which belong to the Japanese city of Ishigaki in Okinawa Prefecture. The small, uninhabited islands are also claimed by Taipei, as Taiwan lies just west of the islets.

“Chinese government ships have sailed in the contiguous zone off the coast of the Senkakus for 112 days in a row since February 13,” Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, reported June 3. “It is the longest span since Japan’s government acquired ownership of some of the islands from a Japanese owner nine years ago.”

“The [Chinese] vessels have repeatedly entered Japan’s territorial waters and tried to approach Japanese fishing boats. The [Japan] Coast Guard remains on alert,” the broadcaster reported.

“In a comment, the [Japan] Coast Guard said it will take firm action in accordance with international and domestic law to prevent the situation from escalating,” NHK added.

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