Taro Aso, Japan’s deputy prime minister and minister of finance, said in a speech during his visit to India on Sunday that for the past 1,500 years, China has never had a history of smooth relations with Japan and India. 

“India and China share a border, while Japan and China are connected by the sea, but for the past 1,500 years there has never been a history of extremely smooth relations between our countries and China,” Aso said, as quoted by China-based Huanqiu.

The comments came at a meeting with Indian businesspeople in New Delhi, amid border tensions between India and China, as well as ongoing Sino-Japanese disputes over islands in the East China Sea. Most recently, Aso and other Japanese ministers paid a visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors the 2.5 million Japanese soldiers who died in World War II, including convicted war criminals. Visits to the shrine have always been a sore spot for China and South Korea.

“We have to protect our own countries,” Aso said on whether Japan and India should strengthen their defense relations.

Aso also called for close defense cooperation between Japan, Australia, India, and the United States to ensure regional stability, according to Huanqiu.