Written by Staff Writer by Marie Hartwell-Walker, CNN
Earlier this month, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a comment he said he’d only ever said publicly once before: In relation to its islands dispute with China. “Of course, if there were any danger of the East China Sea becoming an East Asian lake with anti-Japan movement there, we will make the necessary war-like contingency plans. If we need to use force, we will exercise maximum restraint.”
Abe made the comment in Tokyo on July 19, in front of reporters in what was reported as a private briefing. “Of course,” he said, “a Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency.”
Currently the former prime minister of Japan and of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Abe is one of the most hawkish politicians in Japan’s history, and a fierce supporter of maintaining the country’s military as a “national security asset” according to his party’s policies.
Abe’s “Three Cold War Decades” statement is in response to China’s apparent attempts to assert its claims over the disputed islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
It comes amid simmering tension between the neighboring Asian nations, after China last year announced it had installed structures on one of the islands, the most significant challenge to Japan’s ownership yet.
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Reinforced by warnings that China poses an “existential threat” to Japan, the statement drew a swift rebuke from Chinese officials.
Speaking at a briefing earlier this month, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang denounced Abe’s remarks as “irresponsible.”
“We oppose Japan’s abuse of the democratic and constitutional democracy in the name of foreign affairs,” he said.
The United States followed suit.