China lodges protest after Japanese PM refers to Taiwan as a country
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga sparked ire from China when he referred to Taiwan as a country on Wednesday, June 9.
According to Kyodo News, Suga was speaking in his first one-on-one parliamentary debate with opposition leaders when he said Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan are "three countries" that have been imposing "strong restrictions on privacy rights" to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
China urges Japan to be "prudent in words and actions"
His comments did not go unnoticed, nor did they go down well with Beijing.
Responding to Suga's comments the next day at a regular press conference, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said: "China expresses strong dissatisfaction with Japan's erroneous remarks and has lodged a solemn protest against Japan."
He added: "There is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory."
He further urged Japan to "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".
China ramping up pressure on Taiwan
Beijing has not ruled out the use of force to achieve Taiwan's unification with the mainland.
It has cranked up its pressure on Taipei recently by increasing its frequency of incursions into Taiwan's air defence zone using fighter jets and bombers, and conducting more military exercises off Taiwan's coast, calling it "combat drills".
China said the exercises in the Taiwan Strait were necessary to "curb Taiwan independence" and to counter the "collusion" between Taiwan and the U.S., Reuters reported.
Analysts Adrian Ang and Olli Pekka Suorsa of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies put forth the argument in The Diplomat that these activities were conducted with the intention to counter what China saw as U.S. provocations, as well as to carry out a "new normal" as China expands its military training further from its coast.
Top image via Nippon TV News 24 Japan/YouTube & Chinese foreign ministry