Tokyo [Japan], June 11 (ANI): Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga referred to Taiwan as a country, drawing a sharp reaction from Beijing which regards the self-ruled island as its 'inalienable part'.
In his first one-on-one parliamentary debate with opposition leaders Wednesday, Suga, naming Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan, said, "Such three countries have been imposing strong restrictions on privacy rights" to curb the novel coronavirus outbreak, Kyodo News reported.
Self-governed Taiwan is usually called a "region" in Japan.
Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of almost 24 million people located off the southeastern coast of mainland China, despite the fact that the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades.
Taipei, on the other hand, has countered the Chinese aggression by increasing strategic ties with democracies including the US, which has been repeatedly opposed by Beijing. China has threatened that "Taiwan's independence" means war.
Suga's reference came as Tokyo and Beijing have already been at odds over several issues, including a territorial dispute in the East China Sea and the crackdown on Hong Kong.
"China expresses strong dissatisfaction with Japan's erroneous remarks and has lodged a solemn protest against Japan," Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters in Beijing on Thursday.
"There is only one China in the world," Wang said, urging Japan to become more cautious in words and deeds on Taiwan affairs and to avoid sending wrong signals to the island's independence forces.
Suga's government has been strengthening its commitment to democratic Taiwan. Recently, Japan donated over 1.2 million COVID-19 doses to Taiwan, as the island faces a spike in COVID-19 cases.
China has also lambasted Japan for donating vaccines, labelling such a move as a "political performance".
At his summit in Washington in April, Suga with US President Joe Biden acknowledged "the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait." It marked the first time in 52 years that Japanese and U.S. leaders have mentioned Taiwan in a joint statement. (ANI)