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Japan's new defense chief airs 'strong concern' over China's drills

Newly appointed Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada on Aug. 10, 2022. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- New Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada on Wednesday aired "strong concern" over China's recent military drills near Taiwan in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the self-ruled democratic island, which Beijing claims as part of its territory.

    "Combined with a lack of transparency of its national defense policies and military forces, recent military activities by China have become a strong concern for our nation, the region and the international community," Hamada told a press conference after he assumed his post in a Cabinet reshuffle earlier in the day.

    Hamada said Japan will beef up its defense posture, especially by deploying more assets and personnel to remote southwestern islands, in "a visible manner" to deal with an increasingly severe security environment.

    Hamada returned to the position that he held for almost a year until September 2009. He replaced Nobuo Kishi, the younger brother of Shinzo Abe, a former prime minister who was shot dead during a campaign speech about a month ago.

    The Cabinet reshuffle came after five ballistic missiles fired by China fell into Japan's exclusive economic zone during Beijing's large-scale drills near Taiwan on Aug. 4, following Pelosi's visit last week to the island.

    Beijing regards Taipei as a breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

    After Japan and other members of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations criticized China's response to Pelosi's Taiwan trip in a statement, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi canceled a planned bilateral meeting with his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi in Phnom Penh on the same day.

    If realized, it would have been the first foreign ministerial meeting between the two neighbors since November 2020.

    Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the door is "always open" for dialogue with China, though he said there are no plans for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

    In a separate press conference, Kishida stressed the need to have "constructive and stable" relations with China.

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