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Shinzo Abe, then Japan's prime minister, at the White House in Washington, D.C., on June 7, 2018.
Shinzo Abe, then Japan's prime minister, at the White House in Washington, D.C., on June 7, 2018. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said China should be aware that any crisis with Taiwan would pull in Japan and its ally the U.S., warning of the disastrous effect on the economy of any military action.

The comments drew a protest from Beijing and were some of the most pointed by a prominent Tokyo politician on tensions in the Taiwan Strait. Delivering a speech by video to an audience in Taiwan on Wednesday, Abe said actions of an increasingly powerful China toward Japan and Taiwan were likely to become more complex, blurring the line between war and peace.

“A military adventure would be the path to economic suicide,” Abe said. “We must keep reiterating that peaceful ties between China and Taiwan are the only option.”

Spooked by Beijing’s clampdown in Hong Kong, senior Japanese lawmakers have been increasingly speaking out about the importance of Taiwan to Japan’s security, to Beijing’s irritation.

The remarks by Abe, who stepped down as premier last year citing ill health, come after China sent a fresh sortie of warplanes toward Taiwan on Sunday in response to a visit of U.S. lawmakers. China’s Communist Party sees the island as part of its territory despite never having ruled it and seeks to block its official interactions with other countries.

“The former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe disregarded the One China principle and flagrantly made wrong remarks on the Taiwan question,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing Wednesday in Beijing.

Wang said Abe made “irresponsible remarks” regarding China’s internal affairs, adding his government lodged stern representations with Japan.

Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party asserts the island is a de facto sovereign nation awaiting wider international recognition and not part of Chinese territory.

“Any armed invasion of Taiwan would present a serious threat to Japan,” Abe said. “A Taiwan crisis would be a Japan crisis and therefore a crisis for the Japan-U.S. alliance,” he added, saying that Chinese President Xi Jinping should not fail to understand the situation.

Democratic peoples should continually remind Xi and Chinese Communist Party officials not to take the wrong path, Abe said. While China is large, its links with the rest of the world mean that any aggression on its part would hurt its own economy, he said.

Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said the Taiwan Strait may be the next major diplomatic problem facing Tokyo, and Japan should seek to cooperate with Taiwan and countries that share its values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

Abe also called for Taiwan to have a greater voice on the world stage, including at the World Health Organization, and said he supported Taipei’s bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership regional trade agreement. China is also seeking to join the partnership, and Japan’s current leaders haven’t given a clear opinion on how the competing applications should be handled.

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