China-Japan tensions were at the risk of further escalation as Tokyo made an official reference to Taiwan in its annual defense report, a move that will irk China.
The 'Defense of Japan' white paper Japan issued on Tuesday says Tokyo will pay close attention to Taiwan's stability and there is need for 'greater sense of vigilance' over the matter.
The official comment comes amid strident efforts by Beijing to in recent years to bring the territory under its rule.
'Greater Sense of Vigil'
"The stability of the situation around Taiwan is important, not only for the security of our country, but for the stability of the international community ... Our country must pay close attention to this, with an even greater sense of vigilance," the Japanese Defense Ministry said in the white paper, according to the Japan Times.
The White Paper notes that the Biden administration has made it clear it will support Taiwan in case of a military confrontation with China. The paper adds that there is little chance of China accepting the US intervention in Taiwan, and hence there is a real threat of Sino-US tensions coming to a tipping point over Taiwan.
Last week, Japan had angered China by saying that Tokyo would come to the defense of Taiwan should attack the territory.
'Okinawa could be Next'
China hit back at the Japanese statement, saying the Tokyo's stance threatened the bilateral relations. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the remarks made by Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso "harmed the political foundation of China-Japan relations."
Aso had said that Japan would work with the United States if China invaded Taipei. "If a major incident happened [in Taiwan], it would not be strange at all if it touches on a situation threatening survival ... If that is the case, Japan and the US must defend Taiwan together," Aso had said.
Aso observed that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan will also harm the territorial sovereignty of Japan. "Okinawa could be next," he observed.
The latest move by Japan is in line with its consistent stance in the Taiwan issue in recent years. Tokyo has kept raising concerns over Taiwan's stability as an independently ruled territory.
China Wants Reunification
China considers self-ruling Taiwan as a renegade province and hasn't abandoned the possibility of using force to annex the island. China has always wanted the 'reunification' with democratically ruled Taiwan, a prospect the Taiwanese see with alarm.
Under the rule of the current president, Xi Jinping, the Chinese ambitions over Taiwan have become more pronounced. Xi Jinping had raised the Taiwan question in the speech marking the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, wherein he said China's goal of gaining control of Taiwan was 'historic mission'.
In recent months, the Chinese military has ratcheted up rhetoric against Taiwan, while Chinese political leadership categorically endorsed the theory that Taiwan will one day be part of the mainland.
Japan's Business Interests
While a putative Chinese invasion of Taiwan will certainly pose direct threat against Japan, Tokyo is also concerned that any watering down of Taiwanese independence will adversely affect its economy.
The Japanese technology and auto industries depend on Taiwan for the crucial supplies of semiconductors. Taiwan is a global leader in production of semiconductors.
Japan still accepts the 'One China' policy, but the governments in recent years have been more vocal about the increasing Chinese threat in the region.
In June, China sent 28 fighter jets into Taiwan-controlled airspace in the largest incursion ever. Taiwan scrambled warplanes and deployed missile defense systems in response.