Saturday, July 31, 2021

After The US, Japan ‘Vows’ To Defend Taiwan From A Possible Chinese Invasion

As Taiwan continues to face the ‘heat’ from China who calls it a renegade province, Japan’s Deputy PM Taro Aso has talked about collective self-defense in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. He also suggested Tokyo’s support to the US “to defend Taiwan together”.

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Terming it a “survival-threatening situation”, Aso said that Japan’s Self-Defence Forces (SDF) could be deployed to protect Japan’s national security since an attack on Taiwan could threaten Japan’s survival as well, Nikkei Asia reported.

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Japan’s Okinawa, an important military base, lies just 450 miles from Taiwan. Japan is authorized to mobilize its armed forces only in case of national defense. This arrangement holds under the US-Japan security treaty of 1960.

Aso’s comments assume significance amid a visible shift in Japan’s Taiwan policy as the country joins the diplomatic bandwagon to counter China’s aggressive policies.

Last week, Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said that the security of Japan is directly linked with Taiwan and earlier the country’s deputy defense minister questioned Japan’s official position on Taiwan constrained by One-China Policy.

The Eurasian Times earlier reported how Japan is developing into a formidable airpower in Asia.

Taiwan Policy

The Republic of China (Taiwan’s official name) that came into existence after Mao Zedong’s civil war is claimed by Beijing under its One-China Policy and aims to unite the democratically governed island-nation with the mainland.

Taiwan used to be a Japanese colony from 1885 to 1945; Japan surrendered to the Chinese after its loss in World War II. In the post-world war phase, Japan established ties with the nationalist government in Taiwan and signed a peace treaty called the Treaty of Taipei, in 1952.

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Amid a changing geopolitical scenario and US President Richard Nixon’s official visit to Beijing, Japan signed a Joint Communique in 1972 that established official diplomatic ties with Beijing, recognizing POC as the “sole government of China” and severed ties with Taiwan.

Since then Japan has maintained a low profile in referring to Taiwan domestically and internationally in any official capacity.

Photo from the Navy
Taiwan’s Marine Corps conducting an amphibious landing exercise. (Image: Taiwan Navy)

However, in the past two decades, Japan while maintaining a minimal role in cross-Taiwan strait relations has indirectly expanded its military footprint to play a greater role in regional security.

In 2016, after Tsai Ing-wen won the Presidential elections of Taiwan, Japan’s then-Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, sent a congratulatory message for her victory, the first time a high-level Japanese government official issuing such a communication to a president-elect of Taiwan.

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In 2017, Japan’s Deputy Minister Jiro Akama became the first high-level government functionary to visit Taiwan since 1972 and the two countries signed an agreement on maritime cooperation of search and rescue.

Japan’s outreach to Taiwan can be seen as an element of a wider “free and open Indo-Pacific” framework and to promote rules-based international order to keep the Chinese hegemonic ambitions in check.

Jeffry W. Hornung, a political scientist writing for a Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution, noted that Taiwan and Japan share common values and a mutual interest in maintaining the status quo and putting pressure on mainland China when it violates the norms and rules underpinning the international order.

Countering Chinese Claims  

In another development, Netflix has removed an Australian spy drama from its streaming service in Vietnam following the Southeast Asian country’s complaint.

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The Australian series ‘Pine Gap’ reportedly depicted a map of China’s contested nine-dash line, which is based on “unilateral claims” on the entire expanse of the South China Sea, also claimed by five other Southeast Asian littoral states.

Vietnam’s Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information said the content of the series “angered and hurt the entire people of Vietnam” and “violate Vietnam’s sovereignty”.

Vietnam asserts claims over the Paracel Islands (known as Hoang Sa archipelago) and the Spratly Islands (called Quan Dao Truong Sa) and passed a national law in 2012 to demarcate its maritime boundaries.

The Chinese and the Vietnamese vessels have repeatedly clashed in the surrounding waters of the contested islands, amid China carrying out reclamation activities and developing artificial islands.

China’s Ambitions

Taro Aso’s comments come in the backdrop of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s reiteration of “resolving Taiwan question and realizing China’s complete unification” during a speech at the ruling Communist Party of China’s (CPC) centenary celebrations on July 1.

Image
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at a ceremony marking the centenary of the CPC in Beijing. (via Twitter)

The international community has begun to publicly view China as a security threat given its purported “expansionist tendencies”.

Taiwan has become a flashpoint between a revisionist power China and established power US as the latter continues to rally support for the island nation at international forums.

Ironically, the 1972 communique raised by China whenever Japan engages with Taiwan in its official capacity, also uses “anti-hegemony language”, stating that “neither of the two countries should seek hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region and each is opposed to efforts by any other country or group of countries to establish such hegemony”.

Reacting to the series of comments made by high-level Japanese officials, China’s state-owned Global Times published an editorial calling them “provocative” and “using Taiwan as a bargaining chip to constantly test China’s bottom line and serve its own geopolitical interests”.

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