Senior Japanese officials have again touched China’s red line by more explicitly referring to Taiwan as a “democratic country”. This time, the Chinese Communist Party’s spokesman for the war wolves was angered and immediately sent a protest to Japan. Why are Japan and the West increasingly identifying with Taiwan, and what is the driving force behind it?
In a speech at a seminar at the Hudson Institute in the United States on Monday (June 28), Japanese Vice Defense Minister Yasuhide Nakayama questioned the West’s continuation of the “one-China policy” of recognizing Beijing but not Taipei. He said he did not know how people in the future would evaluate this position.
But he noted that democratic countries need to protect each other, so “we must protect Taiwan as a democratic country.”
Taisu Nakayama also said that Japan and Taiwan are geographically close and that if something were to happen to Taiwan, the Okinawa region of Japan would also be affected because U.S. troops and families are stationed there.
China’s Foreign Ministry was outraged by Yasuhide Nakayama’s comments. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin made stern representations to the Japanese side on Tuesday. Wang Wenbin said calling Taiwan a country is a “serious violation” of the principles of the four political documents, including the Sino-Japanese Joint Declaration, and a “serious breach” of Japan’s solemn commitment not to treat Taiwan as a country.
Calling Taiwan a country has happened several times recently in Japanese politics.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimichi Mogi referred to “Taiwan’s domestic” and “domestic” during a question and answer session at the Diet on June 3 on the issue of vaccines given to Taiwan. In just a dozen seconds of his speech, he twice referred to Taiwan as a “country.
On June 9, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga referred to Taiwan as a country alongside Australia and New Zealand during a parliamentary debate on preparations for the Tokyo Olympics and epidemic prevention measures for the new crown, saying that the epidemic prevention measures of the three countries severely restrict the private rights of citizens. Yukio Enno, the leader of Japan’s largest opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party, also referred to Taiwan as a country in the debate.
Japan and Taiwan have a long history of relations, and their populations are close, often traveling with each other and familiar with each other’s cultures. The world-renowned Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng lived in Japan for a long time, and at one point in her singing career she was even better known in Japan than in Taiwan. The Japanese people also have a very special affection for Taiwan, which they regard as a close neighbor and a friend. Taiwan always ranks high in the number of international tourists it receives each year from Japan.
Observers say that despite such close ties between the two sides, Japanese officials have been strictly adhering to the one-China policy for many years. It is only in the last few years that Japanese political circles have changed their views on Taiwan as calls for China’s armed reunification with Taiwan have risen one after another and Chinese military provocations against Taiwan have increased dramatically.
In fact, this is not only happening in Japan, but Americans and Europeans are also changing their feelings and views on Taiwan.
Some U.S. lawmakers have also introduced bills one after another in the last two years, arguing that the U.S. should recognize Taiwan in order to stop the Chinese Communist Party from conquering it by force.
Last July, McCaul, the Republican leader of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “I think the harshest punitive measure [against the Chinese Communist Party] would be to recognize Taiwan’s legitimacy as an ‘independent country,’ and that would be a fundamental step in the right direction. “
In February, Republican Congressmen Tom Tifani and Scott Perry co-sponsored a bill calling on the White House to abandon the U.S. “One-China” policy and recognize Taiwan as an “independent country. The bill also proposes to recognize normalized diplomatic relations with Taiwan’s “democratically elected government” and support Taiwan’s full membership in the United Nations and other international organizations of which the United States is a member.
The mayor of the Czech capital, Prague, Heurep, announced in 2019 the dissolution of Prague’s sister city relationship with Beijing. Czech Speaker Vestfel and Horip realized their plans to visit Taiwan last year despite multiple obstacles from the Chinese Communist Party.
Analysts say Xi’s militaristic stance on Taiwan is the biggest driver behind the phenomenon of a change in Japan, the United States and Europe’s policy toward Taiwan.