Japan ex-PM Aso’s ‘fight for Taiwan’ remark in line with official view, lawmaker says

By Kantaro Komiya

TOKYO (Reuters) – Former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso’s remark on Tuesday that his country must show “the resolve to fight” to defend Taiwan from attack was in line with Tokyo’s official stance, a lawmaker close to Aso told a TV show late on Wednesday.

Aso, vice president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said in Taipei that Japan, the United States and others must show strong resolve to come to Taiwan’s defence if it were attacked, signalling deterrence against China.

Aso’s speech angered China, which claims Taiwan as its territory. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday that Beijing urges Japan to abide by the One China principle and refrain from supporting pro-independence Taiwan forces in any way.

Keisuke Suzuki, an LDP lawmaker who accompanied Aso’s Taiwan visit this week, told the BS Fuji talk show on Wednesday that Aso had discussed the issue with Japanese government officials, indicating that Aso’s view did not deviate from the official position.

“The comment was not lawmaker Taro Aso’s personal remark, but a result of arrangements with government insiders”, Suzuki said. “I think the Japanese government clearly regards this as the official line.”

Aso’s visit, which marked the most senior Japanese political official to visit Taiwan since 1972, when Japan normalised diplomatic relations with China, came as tensions have risen over democratically governed Taiwan amid China’s increasing military pressure on the island during the past three years.

The United States unveiled a Taiwan weapons aid package worth up to $345 million last month. Japan, a close U.S. ally, is in the midst of a historic boost to defence spending.

U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly said U.S. forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, which the White House said was not a shift in U.S. policy.

Asked about Aso’s speech, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, Tokyo’s top government spokesperson, said on Wednesday that Japan has consistently hoped for a peaceful settlement of issues regarding Taiwan thorough dialogue.

Asked whether Japan would deploy its military to Taiwan if there is a crisis, Matsuno declined to comment, saying the government would not answer a hypothetical question.

(Reporting by Kantaro Komiya. Editing by Gerry Doyle)