Japan juggles danger on Taiwan question
Published: Mar 22, 2021 07:02 PM
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at his office in Tokyo on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) meets with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at his office in Tokyo on March 16. Photo: AFP

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin agreed in their recent meeting in Tokyo to closely cooperate in the event of a military clash between the Chinese mainland and the island of Taiwan, according to Kyodo News on Sunday.

Japan is one of the countries with the closest geopolitical interests to the island of Taiwan, and Japan is also blindly following the US' steps in many aspects. The US and Japan also share a security treaty as a promise of Washington to assist in the defense of the Japanese territory. 

However, on the Taiwan question, the US is not at all a reliable ally. Washington will not invest much military power and resources to intervene in a military clash across the Taiwan Straits. Nor will Japan. It is more likely that Japan will provide some intelligence and logistical services to the US, rather than large-scale input of specific military resources. China's increasing military strength has greatly added to the cost of Tokyo and Washington's military cooperation on the Taiwan question.

Tokyo has been reviewing the feasibility of issuing a Self-Defense Forces dispatch order to protect US warships and military planes in case of a crisis between the Chinese mainland and island of Taiwan, according to Kyodo News. Japan's consideration is more or less due to US pressure. Washington regards Tokyo as one of its important allies. And it will certainly ask Japan to contribute more on the Taiwan question. Japan also knows all too well that the US may go back on its words at critical junctures, or fail to fulfill its promises exactly as stated.

To some extent, Japan will receive some benefits from Washington through its military coordination with the US. After all, the US and Japan are in an alliance. If Japan states to "closely cooperate" with the US in the event of a war across the Taiwan Straits, then it feels more confident America has its back. After catering to the US, Tokyo may feel that it will gain further support from Washington on other issues and questions, such as the Diaoyu Islands and the South China Sea. Japan is also willing to be a strategic vassal or pawn for the US to contain China.

According to the Kyodo News' report, the US and Japan have not had discussions on how they should coordinate their response in case of a military clash between the Chinese mainland and the island of Taiwan. Specifically, Japan may provide intelligence and logistical support to the US in accordance with the US-Japan security treaty. It might also provide intelligence support to the Taiwan military at the request of Washington. Recently, discussions concerning the island of Taiwan are on the rise in Japan. This includes the establishment of a working group to discuss policies toward Taiwan by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). In February, some legislators from Japan's ruling party have even called for a new law similar to the Taiwan Relations Act in the US. After the US-Japan "2+2" meeting, the two countries issued a joint statement which said they "underscored the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait." 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian criticized Japan for "inviting the wolf into the house" and "going so far as to break faith." Japan needs to realize that though it wants to be a little brother to the US, Washington may betray Tokyo at any critical moment. For example, the US may push Japan out to the advance position in its game against China.

For example, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is likely to meet US President Joe Biden on April 9, the first foreign leader to meet the president in the White House if the trip is made, according to a Japan's Yomiuri newspaper report on March 14. The two sides are likely to conduct further discussions on the defense issue against a war across the Taiwan Straits. This will target the Chinese mainland. But in fact, the Chinese mainland has always made its position and bottom line clear both politically and diplomatically. It will never allow any other country to interfere in Taiwan question. If anyone wants to intervene, China will not hesitate to utilize all troops and arms. We will be ready to use all means, including force, to achieve reunification.

The author is a Beijing-based military expert. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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