A top contender for Japan’s leadership on Tuesday advocated taking a more hardline stance on China, saying that Japan and the US must jointly prepare for a potential crisis in the Taiwan Strait, as Taiwan is on the front lines of democracy’s fight against authoritarianism.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, former Japanese minister of foreign affairs Fumio Kishida, who has expressed his intention to run for leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said that Japan should consider building its defensive missile-strike capability.
Kishida on Aug. 26 announced his candidacy for the Sept. 29 election to replace Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as party leader, after Suga on Friday last week said he would not run again for the party’s top post, making way for a new prime minister to be determined in the vote.
Although leader of a party faction known for having more dovish views, Kishida has been adopting a harder stance on security than Suga’s administration.
A day before Suga announced his resignation, Kishida told the Nikkei Asia newspaper that countering China would be his government’s top priority.
Expressing “deep alarm” at Beijing’s aggression, he in the interview emphasized cooperation with other nations that “share the same values.”
Kishida told the Wall Street Journal that Japan should be prepared for a missile attack, especially as its adversaries’ capabilities are improving by the day.
“Can we protect the lives of the people by watching silently as Japan gets hit?” he asked, raising particular concern over hypersonic guided missiles such as China’s DF-17. “Don’t we need to have the ability to block the other side’s missile attack ability?”
It is also crucial to work with partners to counter authoritarian advances from China and Russia, he added.
“The front line of the clash between authoritarianism and democracy is Asia, and particularly Taiwan,” he told the paper.
“As a practical matter, Japan cannot respond on its own,” he said. “We cannot respond except by cooperating with our ally, the US. It is important to conduct simulations for this.”
Kishida, who served as foreign minister from 2012 to 2017, is likely to face another former foreign minister, Taro Kono, who was rated higher in public polling over the weekend, but has a smaller support base within the party leadership.
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