Image copyright Reuters Image caption Shinzo Abe clashed with Barack Obama over security ties with the United States
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has told Beijing that a Taiwanese emergency was a “Japanese emergency”.
On a visit to Taipei, Mr Abe also reaffirmed Tokyo’s commitment to the “One China” policy, under which it acknowledges Taiwan as part of China.
Japanese officials stress that any change to this policy would only be done on the basis of mutual consent.
Many Japanese view self-ruled Taiwan as their own territory.
Tokyo asserts that the territory does not have a legitimate claim on Japan because the country was annexed by the Japanese at the end of World War II.
Mr Abe’s comments – made in a speech to Taiwan’s parliament – are the latest example of such divergent views.
‘Hope for good relations’
During his first visit to Taiwan in 2007, Mr Abe told his hosts that Japan would do everything it could to improve ties with them.
However, relations with Beijing in the following years have worsened, amid a territorial row and the impact of the damaging scandal over Tokyo’s ties with Russia.
Relations between China and Taiwan were strained further in 2015 by the visit of Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which houses the souls of some World War II war criminals.
Mr Abe has criticised Ms Tsai for her trip.
He has repeatedly said he believes the use of the shrine as a site of war punishment is inappropriate, but he has stopped short of openly criticising the Taiwanese government over the issue.
In Tokyo, he also expressed the hope for “close ties with China and a strengthening of bilateral relations in the future”.
He is not the first former Japanese leader to make such a visit.
Takeshi Enoki, a former prime minister, visited the cemetery in 2010.
However, Mr Abe’s trip is seen as having more substance, the BBC’s Kambiz Foro says, given his position as head of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
“This kind of visit is quite rare in recent years, but Mr Abe’s visit today sets out his policy of defying China’s objections.”
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Shinzo Abe is one of only three Japanese prime ministers to visit Taiwan
Mr Abe’s comments came during his short visit to Taipei for an international security forum.
He is due to meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen later on Friday.
Ahead of their meeting, Mr Abe said relations between Tokyo and Taipei would improve as soon as Tsai’s government made improvements in her country’s relations with China.
“I am convinced that the improvements that China made in bilateral relations with its neighbours, including Taiwan, would also be reciprocal,” Mr Abe said.
In September 2017, the LDP announced a proposal for a resolution to Japan’s stance on the “One China” policy.
However, Japan’s foreign ministry refused to comment on the remarks made by Mr Abe, while China’s foreign ministry said the visit was only political, and urged the Japanese leader to “not enter the political propaganda games”.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen paid a visit to Japan’s Yasukuni shrine in 2015
Like most Japanese prime ministers before him, Mr Abe was elected during the Democratic Party’s term.
The party came to power in 2012 to lead the government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, ending a five-year long administration that was dominated by Mr Abe’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe.
But the two prime ministers have been at odds over the status of Taiwan since Mr Abe was elected again in 2013.
Mr Abe took office in December 2012 promising to change Japan’s long-standing policy of equating the self-ruled island with its self-proclaimed Japanese colony of Hong Kong.
Mr Abe has demanded that Beijing withdraw troops it sent to combat a political rebellion in China’s Tibet region in 1950. Beijing denies sending troops and calls Mr Abe’s accusations a lie.
Tokyo called off a visit to the Yasukuni shrine by China’s president, Xi Jinping, the day before his visit to Taiwan in April 2015.
However, a weekend visit to the shrine by Mr Abe, shortly after Mr Xi visited, was one of the few times during his four-year term as prime minister that China and Japan – China’s closest regional ally – avoided an embarrassing diplomatic spat.