Japan PM meets Pelosi, calls China drills ‘grave problem’

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday that China’s military exercises aimed at Taiwan represent a “grave problem” that threatens regional peace and security after five ballistic missiles launched as part of the drills landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

Kishida, speaking after breakfast with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her congressional delegation, said the missile launches need to be “stopped immediately.”

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China, which claims Taiwan and has threatened to annex it by force if necessary, called Pelosi’s visit earlier this week to the self-ruled island a provocation and on Thursday began military exercises, including missile strike training, in six zones surrounding Taiwan, in what could be its biggest since the mid-1990s.

In Taipei on Wednesday, Pelosi said the American commitment to democracy in Taiwan and elsewhere “remains ironclad.” She became the first House speaker to visit the island in 25 years.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said five missiles landed on Thursday in Japan’s exclusive economic zone off Hateruma, an island far south of Japan’s main islands. He said Japan protested to China, saying the missiles “threatened Japan’s national security and the lives of the Japanese people, which we strongly condemn.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, attending a regional meeting in Cambodia, said China’s actions are “severely impacting peace and stability in the region and the international community, and we demand the immediate suspension of the military exercises.”

Japan has in recent years bolstered its defense capability and troop presence in southwestern Japan and remote islands, including Okinawa, which is about 700 kilometers (420 miles) northeast of Taiwan. Many residents say they worry their island will be quickly embroiled in any Taiwan conflict. Okinawa is home to the majority of about 50,000 American troops based in Japan under a bilateral security pact.

At the breakfast earlier Friday, Pelosi and her congressional delegation also discussed their shared security concern over China, North Korea and Russia, and pledged their commitment to working toward peace and stability in Taiwan, Kishida said.