WASHINGTON – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Saturday he told Western powers that East Asia could be the next Ukraine, as he urged a united front on a rising China and bellicose North Korea.
Kicking off Japan’s year as head of the Group of Seven (G-7), Mr Kishida visited leaders of all members of the elite club except Germany, where he plans to go soon following a scheduling conflict.
Closing his trip in Washington, Mr Kishida said he shared with G-7 leaders his “strong sense of crisis regarding the security environment in East Asia”.
“The lesson of Ukraine has taught us that the security of Europe and the Indo-Pacific are inseparable,” Mr Kishida told a news conference a day after meeting US President Joe Biden.
“The situation around Japan is becoming increasingly severe with attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force in the East China Sea and South China Sea and the activation of North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities,” he said.
Mr Kishida was referring to China’s rising assertiveness in surrounding waters where the growing power has a slew of island disputes including with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
China in August also fired missiles into waters that lie in Japan’s economic zone as part of major military exercises around self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province awaiting reunification with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Mr Kishida came to Washington after his government announced that Japan would double defence spending over the next five years, a sea change for a country that has been officially pacifist since its defeat in World War II.
But Mr Kishida said that Japan still sees itself as a “peace-loving” nation and will use the G-7 to push for the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons.
The leaders of the G7 – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – will meet in May in Hiroshima, the site of the world’s first nuclear attack and Mr Kishida’s parliamentary constituency. AFP