Japan’s policy toward Taiwan this year is unusual

On April 12, 25 Chinese Communist military aircraft flew into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), setting the largest daily record since Taiwan’s regular reports of Chinese military incursions last year. But the record lasted only two months, and was set on June 15, this time with 28 aircraft. The Taiwan Strait has been called the “most dangerous place” in the world today, as evidenced by this.

The essence of the Taiwan issue is not about unification and independence, but about dictatorship and democracy. If the Chinese Communist Party had been able to change its ways and make a peaceful transition, the Taiwan issue would have been solved a long time ago. However, the Chinese Communist Party is going against the grain, taking a dead-end path, persecuting its people (from June 4 to Falun Gong, from Xinjiang to Hong Kong), and always preparing for the unification of Taiwan by force, even calling for “leaving the island but not the people”.

Therefore, the international community is highly concerned about the Chinese Communist Party’s moves toward Taiwan and will respond to them in a timely manner. Recently, Japan has been quite prominent in this regard. Let’s look at a few examples.

One, the G7 summit, which concluded on June 13, mentioned the situation in Taiwan in its statement for the first time. During the consultation process of the statement, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga played an assisting role in order to convince European countries. According to media reports, during bilateral talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who advocates a rapprochement with China, Kan persuaded her to align her pace with Japan and the United States.

Second, on June 9, Kan held a discussion with the heads of opposition parties on issues related to the preparation for the Tokyo Olympics and measures to prevent the new crown. During the discussion, Kan and Yukio Enno, the chairman of the largest opposition party, both tacitly referred to Taiwan as a “country” when referring to foreign epidemic prevention policies. This sparked widespread debate.

Third, on June 9, Japan and Australia held 2+2 talks between their foreign and defense ministers. The two sides issued a joint statement after the meeting, expressing concern about the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights violations and emphasizing for the first time “the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and encouraging the peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues” and opposing economic coercion and destabilization.

Fourth, on June 4, Japan donated 1.24 million doses of Oxford (AZ) vaccine to Taiwan, which arrived smoothly. Tsai Ing-wen then issued a statement saying that she once again witnessed the true meaning of “Taiwan-Japan friendship” based on shared values and mutual support.

Fifth, on May 27, Kan held a video summit with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, and later issued a statement saying that the two leaders were “seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas. “We stress the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues.” The Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun quoted Japanese government sources as saying that this was the first time that Japanese and EU leaders had mentioned Taiwan Strait relations in a statement.

Sixth, on May 13, the contents of Japan’s draft 2021 version of the Defense White Paper were revealed (the report is expected to be presented at a cabinet meeting in July), which for the first time explicitly states that “the stability of the situation in Taiwan is important for the security of Japan and the stability of the international community” in light of the increased military activities of the Chinese Communist Party near Taiwan. The white paper is the first to state that “the stability of the situation in Taiwan is important for Japan’s security and the stability of the international community. Earlier, Kyodo News reported that, according to several Japanese government sources, the government has begun formal discussions on the law governing the activities of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces in the event of a contingency in the Taiwan Strait.

Seventh, on April 16, the situation in Taiwan was one of the main topics of the Japan-US summit. In particular, the two sides mentioned that they “agreed on the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” the first time since 1969 that the U.S. and Japanese leaders have mentioned “Taiwan” in a joint statement. Kyodo News quoted sources as saying that the joint statement added language urging a peaceful solution based on Kan’s ideas. During the talks, the Japanese side also expressed the view that “unexpected developments in Taiwan may amount to a situation of significant influence or a situation of existential crisis.

On April 16, Keiji Furuya, chairman of the Japan-China Parliamentarians’ Association, a cross-party group of Japanese Diet members, tweeted that the Japanese flag had been raised at the entrance and exit of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in Taipei. The Japanese flag was not flown before because of China (CCP) concerns.

Ninth, on February 10, a new “Taiwan Policy Discussion Project Group” was established in the Foreign Affairs Group of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan. The media reported that the purpose of this move is to strengthen Japan’s relationship with Taiwan, which does not have diplomatic relations, by targeting mainland China, which is exerting more pressure on Taiwan militarily and economically.

From the above examples, it is clear that the Taiwan issue has become a major focus of Japan’s foreign policy and is being laid out extensively (this article focuses only on diplomacy, but there is actually quite a bit of progress on the military front, see the author’s article “Japan’s ‘Cross-Procity’ Frustration of the Chinese Communist Party”). There are adjustments in Japan’s own specific policy toward Taiwan, but also at the international level to shape the consensus. It can be said that the U.S. carries the flag in the front, and Japan threads the needle in the back.

Why is Japan’s policy toward Taiwan prominent?

The core of Japan’s recent policy toward Taiwan is to restrain the Chinese Communist Party from violating Taiwan by force. If the U.S. is forced to intervene if the CCP starts a war in the Taiwan Strait, Japan will be involved because of the U.S.-Japan alliance; if the U.S. eventually does not intervene due to various considerations, Japan will be caught in the strategic encirclement of the CCP once Taiwan falls into the hands of the CCP; in either case, it will be a dilemma for Japan. Therefore, it is in Japan’s vital interest to ensure a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan Strait issue.

However, if the situation in the Taiwan Strait de-escalates, and if a war in the Taiwan Strait is unlikely, there is obviously no need for Japan to exhaust its brains for this purpose. However, since 2021, the threat of Chinese communist force has repeatedly escalated, the situation in the Taiwan Strait has significantly heated up, and the danger of war has grown.

In this regard, the U.S. military feels particularly urgent. On May 28, Biden proposed a $715 billion Defense Department budget that would invest in military readiness, space, nuclear weapons technology and more, with more than $5 billion going to “The Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI). Designed to counter the Chinese Communist Party and focused on Indo-Pacific competition, the initiative aims to enhance U.S. readiness in the region by providing funding for radar, satellite and missile systems.

The U.S. military’s assessment of the situation in the Taiwan Strait is supposed to be authoritative and has a huge impact on the world. Therefore, it is the dangerous and urgent nature of the situation in the Taiwan Strait that has become a major motivation for Japan to highlight its policy toward Taiwan.

On the other hand, Japan, being close to China, has a more genuine and subtle perception of China. The Japanese strategic community regards Taiwan as Japan’s “lifeline” and believes that once Taiwan falls into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, its submarines can avoid the weakness of the lack of water depth in the East China Sea and dive into the deep sea, and control the entrance to the South China Sea, endangering the safety of Japan’s sea lanes. Therefore, geopolitical conditions also dictate that Japan cannot ignore the CCP – a regime that hates democracy, liberal government and universal values – and violate Taiwan by force.

Of course, Japan’s policy toward Taiwan is subordinate to Japan’s policy toward China, and the Taiwan issue is just a focal point of Japan’s policy toward China. The fact that Japan is now highlighting its policy toward Taiwan indicates that Japan’s policy toward China is changing.

According to the Chinese Communist Party, the symbol of the shift in Japan’s policy toward China was the March 16 2+2 meeting between the U.S. and Japanese foreign ministers and defense ministers, which was followed by a statement that for the first time “emphasized the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait” and a confirmation by Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi that he would work closely with the United States in the event of an emergency in Taiwan. This infuriated the Chinese Communist Party. The following day, CCP Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian hosted a regular press conference, cursing the U.S.-Japan partnership. And Zhongnanhai think-tank Shi Yinhong said in an interview with Dovetail that Japan has basically “torn its face off” from the CCP; Xinhua News Agency said in a commentary that Japan is “increasingly playing a role in the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy,” and so on.

All these prove from the opposite side that Japan’s prominent policy towards Taiwan and the change of policy towards China are indeed effective.