China Blasts Japan After Official Sounds Beijing Threat 'Wake Up' Call

Beijing said it filed a diplomatic complaint with Tokyo after its deputy defense minister said Japan and the U.S. needed to "wake up" to the security threat posed by China and "protect Taiwan as a democratic country."

Japan's State Minister of Defense Yasuhide Nakayama made the comments at a Hudson Institute event on Monday, in which he sounded the alarm about Chinese and Russian military collaboration, and the resultant threat to the Indo-Pacific region.

At a press conference Tuesday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin described the official's remarks as "erroneous."

He said Beijing had "lodged solemn representations" with Tokyo over Nakayama's use of the word "country."

Without naming the Japanese Defense Ministry's second in command, Wang said the official's words "violated Japan's long-standing promise not to regard Taiwan as a country."

"China demands the Japanese government issue a clarification to guarantee a similar incident does not happen again," he said.

Wang called Taiwan part of China's "sacred territory," adding: "We solemnly urge Japan to keep its promise on the Taiwan question and speak and act cautiously."

Wang fired off a similar warning on June 10 after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also referred to Taiwan as a country during a National Diet session broadcast on national television.

Analysts say the high-raking Japanese officials, who are shrewd diplomats, will have pre-planned their use of the phrase despite Tokyo's lack of official relations with Taipei.

Observers who have noted the Japanese public's support for democratic Taiwan believe the ruling party politicians may be trying to drum up domestic support ahead of the general election in October.

Nakayama made several notable mentions of Taiwan during the Hudson Institute event. He described his and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi's relationship with Taiwan as not merely friends, but "brothers" and "family."

The Chinese government continues to claim sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan, which transitioned into a full democracy in the mid-1990s.

A Chinese takeover of Taiwan would directly threaten nearby islands in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture, Nakayama warned, noting the presence of American armed forces and family members.

China's People's Liberation Army is not only conducting military exercises in the Taiwan Strait but also operating in the Western Pacific in an attempt to "surround all the Taiwan islands," said the defense official.

Nakayama said the U.S. and Japan needed to step up their deterrence against China and Russia, which is collaborating closely with Beijing and recently deployed warships near Hawaii.

In light of Taiwan's proximity to Japan—described by Nakayama as "like nose and eyes"—the deputy defense minister said an attack on Taiwan should relate not only to Japan, but the U.S.-Japan alliance as well.

"We have to wake up. We have to prepare," he said. "We have to protect Taiwan as a democratic country."

He warned of China's "aggressive thought and will" under current leader Xi Jinping. "Democratic countries have to protect democratic countries and allies," he added.

During Monday's discussion, Nakayama said China's growing military ambition is a concern not only for Japan, but for the U.S., Europe and other allies, too.

China's Wang accused Nakayama of hyping the "China threat" theory, calling his comments "sinister" and "extremely irresponsible."

Japan Defense Academy Performs Military Parade
Students of Japan's National Defense Academy perform a military parade during a ceremony attended by Japan's State Minister of Defense, Yasuhide Nakayama, in April 2021 Stanislav Kogiku/LightRocket via Getty Images