Japan expresses concern about China's military drills near Taiwan

Japan expressed concern Wednesday about Chinese military activity around Taiwan during U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the self-ruled island, stressing the need for a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues amid heightened tensions.
Japan's top government spokesman Hiroakazu Matsuno said peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is important not only for the security of Japan but also the world.
"We hope issues concerning Taiwan will be resolved peacefully through dialogue," Matsuno told a press briefing.
Tokyo conveyed its concern to China over the planned military drills near Taiwan, saying the affected area overlaps with Japan's exclusive economic zone. The military exercises, including live-fire drills, are expected to take place in six locations around Taiwan from Thursday to Sunday.
Japan is closely watching the Taiwan visit, the first by a House speaker in 25 years, to gauge its impact on regional security.
Asked if Japan supports Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, Matsuno said, "We are not in a position to comment."
The high-profile visit has led to a spike in tensions between China and the United States. Beijing had warned that the Chinese military would "never sit idly by," while Washington said the visit would not signal a change in its policy on Taiwan.
Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Japan has maintained close economic ties with Taiwan since severing diplomatic relations with Taipei and establishing them with Beijing in 1972.
Heightened cross-strait tensions -- and the risk of a contingency -- are a concern for Japan due to its proximity to Taiwan. Japan and China are at loggerheads over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, uninhabited islets that are administered by Japan but claimed by China.
"It's in our neighborhood. We should avoid a situation in which (the drills) would affect Japan in any way," a senior government official said.
As part of her tour of Asia, Pelosi is scheduled to visit Japan later this week and could meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Matsuno said the government "welcomes" her first visit to Japan in seven years as an opportunity to promote bilateral exchanges.

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