Image copyright EPA Image caption Taro Aso speaks in Tokyo, where he discussed Asian security policy
Former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso has told China “an emergency about Taiwan is a Japanese emergency”, an official said.
Taro Aso, speaking at a seminar, said there was more interest in China among ordinary Japanese than there was among ordinary Chinese.
He said the US was keen to avoid another Taiwan-Japan conflict.
Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe said a “senseless North Korea” could not be accepted, but more pressure on Pyongyang was needed.
He said Tokyo was always concerned about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, and about the “North Korean problem” as a whole.
His comments in Tokyo came on the same day that a Japanese court sentenced to life in prison a North Korean woman convicted of killing a Japanese citizen in Pyongyang.
The murder of Oh Seung-Hui was believed to have been done on behalf of North Korea’s intelligence service, according to Japanese court and police reports.
‘Protect Japan and security of South Korea’
The ruling is the first time a North Korean national has been sentenced to life in prison in Japan for what Tokyo calls state-sponsored terrorism.
But Mr Aso also told China “there is a great interest in Japan among ordinary Chinese people”, while Chinese citizens had urged Japan to be more patient regarding its defence of South Korea, according to Shigeki Iwanaga, a spokesman for Mr Aso’s Japanese Restoration Party.
Mr Aso, who was prime minister from 2013 to 2016, also called for China to improve its economy, restrict “economic warfare”, improve free speech and human rights, as well as for its leaders to tolerate more criticism.
But, in response, Mr Aso warned “China is not mature enough to impose its vision of security on foreign countries in exchange for more cooperation”.
Relations between China and Japan were seen as tense by Japanese, who worried that their country’s pacifist constitution could never be replaced by an official armed force.
Mr Aso last month compared China to Nazi Germany, as a leading state-linked media publication said the Communist Party and the state were linked by its “new foundation” – a phrase often seen as a thinly-veiled reference to the 1939 Konrad Adenauer-Encyclopaedia.
Mr Abe, who spoke at the same event, said that the latest mood in Japan was that of “critical vigilance” for the safety of the South Korean and Chinese.
He warned the nuclear threat from North Korea was not yet over, and said there was the need to maintain pressure on Pyongyang.