Japanese PM meets with Pelosi, calls China exercises ‘serious problem’

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TOKYO (TBEN) – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday that China’s military exercises targeting Taiwan pose a “serious problem” threatening regional peace and security after five ballistic missiles fired as part of the exercises in the exclusive economic zone of Japan, have landed.

Kishida, speaking with Speaker of the US House Nancy Pelosi and her congressional delegation after breakfast, said the rocket launches “must be stopped immediately”.

China, which claims Taiwan and has threatened to annex it by force if necessary, called Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island earlier this week a provocation and began military exercises, including missile strike training, in six zones around Taiwan on Thursday, in what could be the largest since the mid-1990s.

In Taipei, Pelosi said on Wednesday that the US commitment to democracy in Taiwan and elsewhere “remains rock solid”. She became the first House speaker to visit the island in 25 years.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said on Thursday five missiles landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone near Hateruma, an island far south of Japan’s main islands. He said Japan was protesting China and said the missiles “threatened Japan’s national security and the lives of the Japanese people, which we strongly condemn.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, who attended a regional meeting in Cambodia, said China’s actions “have a serious impact on peace and stability in the region and the international community, and we demand the immediate suspension of military operations.” exercises.”

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Japan has in recent years bolstered its defense capacity and troop presence in southwestern Japan and outlying islands, including Okinawa, which is about 700 kilometers (420 miles) northeast of Taiwan. Many residents say they are concerned that their island will soon become embroiled in a conflict in Taiwan. Okinawa is home to the majority of about 50,000 US troops stationed in Japan under a bilateral security pact.

Over breakfast earlier Friday, Pelosi and her congressional delegation also discussed their shared security concerns over China, North Korea and Russia, and pledged their commitment to peace and stability in Taiwan, Kishida said. Pelosi would also hold talks with her Japanese counterpart, Speaker of the House of Representatives Hiroyuki Hosoda.

Japan and its main ally, America, along with other democracies in the Indo-Pacific region and Europe, have pushed for new security and economic frameworks to counter China’s growing influence amid mounting tensions between Beijing and Taipei.

Days before Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, a group of senior Japanese lawmakers, including former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, visited the island and discussed regional security issues with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Ishiba said Japan, while working with the United States to prevent conflict in the Indo-Pacific, wants a defense deal with Taiwan.

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On Thursday, foreign ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized countries issued a statement saying, “There is no justification for using a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait.” It said China’s “escalating response risks escalating tensions and destabilizing the region”.

China expressed its dismay at the statement over the last-minute cancellation of talks between Chinese and Japanese foreign ministers on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Cambodia on Thursday.

Pelosi held talks Thursday in South Korea, also a key US ally, which stayed away from the Taiwan issue, apparently so as not to upset China, instead focusing on North Korea’s increasing nuclear threat.

In recent years, South Korea has struggled to balance the United States and China as their rivalry has intensified.

The Chinese military exercises that began Thursday will involve the navy, air force and other departments and will last until Sunday. They include rocket attacks on targets in the seas north and south of the island echoing the last major Chinese military exercises in 1996-1995, aimed at intimidating Taiwan’s leaders and voters.

Taiwan has been beefing up its military and organizing civilian defense exercises, while the US has numerous naval assets in the area.

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China also flew warplanes to Taiwan and blocked imports of its citrus and fish.

China considers the island a breakaway province and considers visits to Taiwan by foreign officials as recognition of its sovereignty.

The Biden and Pelosi administrations have said the United States remains committed to the so-called One China policy, which recognizes Beijing as the government of China but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei. The administration discouraged but did not prevent Pelosi from visiting.

Pelosi has long been a human rights advocate in China. She and other lawmakers visited Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1991 to support democracy, two years after a bloody military crackdown on protesters in the square.

As leader of the House of Representatives, Pelosi’s trip has fueled tensions between the US and China more than visits from other members of Congress. The last speaker of the House to visit Taiwan was Newt Gingrich in 1997.

China and Taiwan, which split in 1949 after a civil war, have no official relations but multibillion-dollar business ties.

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The Bharat Express News writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, and Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan contributed to this report.

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