Japanese political leader Taro Aso calls for peace in the Taiwan Strait as Tokyo expands defense

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A senior Japanese politician is advocating for increasing his country’s deterrence ability to ensure peace in the region, and called for that message to be clearly conveyed globally — particularly in China

“Japan, as a very close neighbor to Taiwan, I think we should be the first to express our attitude and also to make that message clear in the international community including China,” he said.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war. The island never has been part of the People’s Republic of China, but the mainland’s ruling Communist Party says it is obligated to unite with China, by force if necessary.

In December, Japan announced a historic break with its pacifist defense policy by saying it would adopt offensive capabilities and purchase cruise missiles.

Aso, a former prime minister of Japan, said peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait was the consensus of the international community.

A year ago, China fired five ballistic missiles into waters near Japanese southern islands as part of military exercises it held in retaliation for former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Japan has become more explicitly vocal about Taiwan, its former colony, as tensions in the Taiwan Strait have risen.

Japan’s westernmost inhabited island, Yonaguni, is only 110 kilometers (70 miles) away from Taiwan.

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AP senior video producers Johnson Lai in Taipei and Haruka Nuga in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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