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Japan official, calling Taiwan 'red line', urges Biden to 'be strong'

 

Japan official, calling Taiwan 'red line', urges Biden to 'be strong'

A senior Japanese defense official on Friday urged US President-elect Joe Biden to "be strong" in supporting Taiwan in the face of aggressive China, calling the island's security a "red line."

"We are concerned that China will expand its aggressive stance to areas other than Hong Kong. I think one of the next targets, or the one that worries everyone, is Taiwan," Defense Minister Yasuhide Nakayama told Reuters.

In an interview, Nakayama, Japan's deputy defense minister, urged Biden to take a similar line on Taiwan to that of outgoing President Donald Trump, who has significantly increased military sales to the island claimed by China and increased engagement.

Japan's engagement with Taiwan has also flourished in recent years on a largely non-governmental basis. Tokyo maintains a "one China" policy, delicately balancing its relations with neighboring giant China and its longtime military ally in Washington.

Japan shares strategic interests with Taiwan, which is located on sea lanes through which much of Japan's energy supply and trade flows.

"So far, I have not yet seen a clear policy or announcement on Taiwan from Joe Biden. I would like to hear it quickly, so we can also prepare our response on Taiwan accordingly," Nakayama said.

During the presidential campaign, Biden called for strengthening ties with Taiwan and other "like-minded democracies."

Decades ago, as a senator, Biden questioned whether the United States had an "obligation" to defend Taiwan. But many in their foreign policy circles acknowledge that America's imperatives have changed as a rising authoritarian China has grown more assertive and seeks to shape global institutions.

Beijing has been angered by increased US support for Taiwan, including arms sales and visits to Taipei by top US officials, further straining the already poor ties between China and the United States. China considers Taiwan democratically governed as one of its provinces and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing's control.

'RED LINE'

    "Taiwan is China's internal affair," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Friday. "We firmly oppose interference in the internal affairs of China by any country or person by any means."

In Taipei, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou highlighted the strong bipartisan US support for Taiwan based on the "shared language" of freedom and democracy.

"Taiwan looks forward to working closely with the Biden team, to continue to constantly improve the Taiwan-United States relations on the basis of the strong existing friendship," he said.

US officials in Tokyo could not be reached because the embassy was closed for Christmas.

"There is a red line in Asia: China and Taiwan," Nakayama said, citing a red line that former President Barack Obama declared on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, a line that Damascus later crossed. Biden was Obama's vice president.

"How will Joe Biden react in the White House in any case if China crosses this red line?" said Nakayama, who attended a memorial for the late former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui in August, before taking her defense post. "America is the leader of democratic countries. I have a strong feeling to say: America, be strong!"

Chinese fighter jets in recent months have carried out waves of sorties, including crossing the sensitive China-Taiwan middle line, increasing pressure tactics to erode Taiwan's willingness to resist, current Taiwanese and U.S. military officials say and previous.

Taiwan deployed its navy and air force on Sunday when a group of Chinese carriers led by the country's newest aircraft carrier sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, a day after a US warship transited the same waterway.

(Information from Ju-min Park; Additional information from Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing.

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