“If China actually tries to use force against Taiwan, it would probably lead to a very dire situation that would probably include some kind of economic sanctions,” Kono said at a news conference, remarks likely to draw another strong protest from Beijing.


The comments came a day after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — under whom Kono served as defense and foreign ministers — said a Chinese attack on Taiwan would amount to “economic suicide.”


China has demanded that Japan, the United States and other countries not interfere in issues regarding Taiwan, which Beijing calls its “internal affairs,” claiming the self-ruled democratic island is a renegade province awaiting reunification by force if necessary.


Kono also criticized Beijing’s repeated intrusions into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands, a group of East China Sea islets administered by Japan but claimed by China.


“China has been trying to come through our territorial waters around the Senkakus continuously, and that doesn’t help the bilateral relationship get better,” he told the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, speaking in English.


Kono, currently chairman of the Public Relations Headquarters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, lost to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in a run-off in the LDP leadership election in September.