Japan's security is connected to Taiwan's, Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi told Bloomberg in a June 24 interview.
Japanese defence minister: Taiwan's security is vital
The minister said: "The peace and stability of Taiwan are directly connected to Japan and we are closely monitoring ties between China and Taiwan, as well as Chinese military activity."
Kishi, who's also the younger brother of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, added that as China strengthens its military, its power balance with Taiwan is "tipping heavily" to the Chinese side, and that this difference is widening each year.
In addition, he said China is "continuously increasing its defence spending at a high rate, with a lack of transparency".
Previously, after a visit to Yonaguni, the nearest Japanese island to Taiwan, Kishi was reported by Fuji News Network as saying that the geopolitical situation may undergo a great change if Taiwan "turns red", according to Bloomberg.
与那国島に到着。日本最西端の西崎へ。曇りのため台湾は見えず。 pic.twitter.com/m7UOqdWK0H— 岸信夫 (@KishiNobuo) April 17, 2021
Taiwan's security is important to Japan as should Beijing take over the island, it could extend its control over the South China Sea, and could even block Luzon Strait, which is an important shipping lane to Japan's south.
Taiwan's security has often come up as an issue between the U.S. and its allies when discussing China's foreign policy and behaviour in the region.
Besides the South China Sea, Taiwan is said to be a potential flashpoint for armed conflict between China and the U.S.
Ties with Taiwan
The minister, who was newly appointed as defence minister in September 2020, is known for his close ties with Taipei.
He is a top official in the Japan-Taiwan parliamentary friendship group, according to Nikkei Asia.
Previously, he dropped by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's official residence a day after she was re-elected as president in January 2020.
He had also visited Taiwan together with former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and other lawmakers in August last year to mourn the death of Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan's first democratically elected president.
According to Kyodo News, China regards Kishi as a pro-U.S. and hawkish conservative. Along with Abe, the politician has emphasised Japan's relations with Taiwan, more so than with China, which became increasingly apparent as Beijing's military buildup intensifies.
China ramping up pressure on Taiwan
Beijing considers Taiwan as its territory, and has not ruled out the use of force to bring the self-ruled island into the mainland fold.
Beijing has stepped up its pressure on Taipei recently by increasing its frequency of incursions into Taiwan's air defence zone using fighter jets and bombers, and conducting more military exercises off Taiwan's coast, calling it "combat drills".
China said the exercises in the Taiwan Strait were necessary to "curb Taiwan independence" and to counter the "collusion" between Taiwan and the U.S., Reuters reported.
Top image adapted via Taiwan's President Office & Ministry of National Defense