China missile exercises around Taiwan pose a threat to regional security, says Japanese prime minister | Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has condemned China’s military exercises near Taiwan as a “serious problem” and a threat to regional peace and security after five ballistic missiles landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) .

After meeting with US House speaker Nancy Pelosi in Tokyo on Friday, Kishida said China’s live fire drills near the self-governed island “must stop immediately.” Beijing announced four days of exercises expected to end on Sunday.

The exercises are a “serious problem affecting our national security and the security of our citizens,” Kishida told reporters.

China is Japan’s largest trading partner, but the countries have dealt oral blows on the Senkakus – uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that are controlled by Japan but claimed by China, where they are known as the Diaoyu. While Tokyo is keen not to antagonize Beijing, Japan’s role in hosting tens of thousands of US troops — most on the southern island of Okinawa — could play a key role in any crisis in the Taiwan Strait.

Five Chinese missiles appeared to have landed in Japan’s EEZ near Hateruma, an island far south of Japan’s main islands, with four believed to have flown over Taiwan’s main island. The zone extends up to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the country’s coastline, beyond the boundaries of territorial waters.

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“China’s actions this time have a serious impact on peace and stability in our region and the international community,” Kishida said after a breakfast meeting with Pelosi, who caused a stir in Beijing after she visited Taiwan on Wednesday. “I told her that we have called for the immediate cancellation of the military exercises. We also reaffirmed continued close cooperation to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

Kishida said he and Pelosi were committed to a “free and open Indo-Pacific” — a reference to China’s increasingly assertive military activity in the South and East China seas.

Pelosi said China should not isolate Taiwan by preventing US officials from traveling to the island. “They may try to stop Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places, but they will not isolate Taiwan by preventing us from traveling there,” she said Friday.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Tokyo had protested against Beijing. The missiles, he added, “threatened Japan’s national security and the lives of the Japanese people, which we strongly condemn.”

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China has said Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan will challenge its sovereignty claims on the island, which it sees as a breakaway province that will eventually be brought under its control — by force if necessary. Taiwan has labeled the exercises an air and naval blockade and a violation of international law.

Pelosi, the top US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years, met Kishida at the end of a tour of Asia that has significantly heightened tensions in the region. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol did not meet Pelosi on Thursday, accusing him of appeasing China. Yoon was on vacation, reportedly in Seoul, but instead had a phone call with the US House speaker.

Pelosi, who this week met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, said her visit made it “unequivocal” that Washington would not abandon a Democratic ally.

Kishida said he and Pelosi talked about North Korea, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China and nuclear weapons.

But Tokyo is particularly concerned about China’s military exercises, which are being held in locations close to Japan’s remote southern islands. They include Yonaguni, just over 100 km (62 miles) from Taiwan, and the Senkakus – uninhabited islets administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan.

Japan has strengthened its defenses and troop presence in its southwestern region and outlying islands, including Okinawa, about 700 km (420 mi) northeast of Taiwan. Okinawa is home to most of the 50,000 US troops in Japan.

Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democrat party has pledged to double military spending to 2% of GDP, citing mounting threats from China and a nuclear-armed North Korea.

The Defense Department of the Japanese Embassy in Washington said Japanese self-defense aircraft had been mobilized after Chinese drones flew around Sakishima Island and Taiwan.

US officials said the exercises were an “overreaction”. “China has chosen to overreact, using the speaker’s visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said after China had launched 11 ballistic missiles on Thursday.

Kirby said the “irresponsible” launches were “another example of how China’s actions are undermining peace and security in the region”.

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