Staff writer, with CNA, TOKYO
Japanese Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi in a speech in Vietnam on Sunday highlighted the importance of peace in the Taiwan Strait and the vital role Taiwan can play in the world.
Kishi made the remarks at the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense in Hanoi, a day after he met with Vietnamese Minister of Defense Phan Van Giang, when he mentioned Taiwan and the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Taiwan is located at the nexus of the East China Sea and the South China Sea, which is a key point for regional maritime security. Peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait are important to both the region and the international community,” Kishi said during his first overseas trip as defense minister.
He also commented on cross-strait tension over Taiwan’s status.
“It has been a consistent position of Japan to expect that it will be peacefully resolved through direct dialogues by relevant parties,” he said.
Calling Vietnam an important partner for Japan, with which it shares “the same destiny,” Kishi said that the countries should enhance defense cooperation for regional stability and address regional security issues amid a “harsh reality.”
He said that China’s Coast Guard Law, which was made more stringent in February, includes problematic stipulations that could conflict with international law, such as allowing the use force to enforce China’s claims to maritime areas.
The legitimate rights of all relevant countries, including Japan and Vietnam, should never be undermined due to the law, he said, adding that Japan would never tolerate anything that would heighten tensions in the East China Sea and South China Sea.
Countries in the region are facing “an unprecedentedly severe reality, including in the security arena,” he said.
In the waters and airspace of the East and South China seas, actions are being taken based on one-sided assertions that are incompatible with the international order, Kishi said.
Freedom of navigation and freedom of flight must not be unduly contravened, he said.
To that end, it is important to promote the importance of the “rule of law,” the basic principle of peaceful resolution of conflict, and above all, to put it into practice, he added.
He said that attempts to change the “status quo” through coercion continue in the East China Sea, including in waters around the Japanese-controlled Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan — which are claimed by Taiwan as well as China.
The situation is becoming more and more serious, with repeated cases of Chinese coast guard vessels intruding into territorial waters and approaching Japanese fishing vessels, he said.
In the South China Sea, China has continued to militarize disputed rocky outcrops, frequently conducted military exercises and is believed to have launched ballistic missiles, Kishi said.
“Japan strongly opposes unilateral attempts to change the status quo by coercion and any activities that raise tensions, and shares concerns with Vietnam,” he said.
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