A Chinese invasion of Taiwan could be an “existential threat” to Japan that would lead to a collective defense of the democratic island with the United States, the Japanese vice premier said.
Taro Aso, who is also finance minister, made the remarks during a fundraising event in Tokyo on Monday, according to a report from Jiji Press in Japan.
“If a major incident occurs in Taiwan, it is not at all uncommon to view it as an existential threat [to Japan]The senior official said. In such a case, Japan and the United States will have to work together to defend Taiwan. “
Observers have noted the finesse with which Japanese officials conduct diplomacy, including their careful use of words. The deputy prime minister’s description of an “existential threat” is a choice phrase required to trigger the relevant self-defense clauses in Japan’s otherwise pacifist constitution.
Aso, who is part of Japan’s presidential-style National Security Council, explained his thinking by warning “Okinawa could be next” after China’s invasion of Taiwan. Japan “could exercise its right to collective self-defense in a limited way,” he said at the event.
Asked about his comments on Tuesday, Aso reportedly replied: “We are closely monitoring the situation.”
Also on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called the remarks “extremely false and dangerous,” saying Beijing had lodged a diplomatic protest with Tokyo.
The Japanese outer island of Yonaguni lies less than 70 miles off the east coast of Taiwan, while the disputed Senkaku Islands are about 120 miles northeast of Taipei. Both are administered by Okinawa Prefecture in Japan.
China claims the Senkaku islets through its claim on Taiwan. Beijing and Taipei list the island chain in Taiwan’s eastern Yilan County, but the Taiwanese government has been less assertive on its claims to the East China Sea areas in recent years.
The Chinese government says Taiwan is a democratically governed province waiting to be “unified” with the mainland. Taiwan says it is a sovereign state called the Republic of China.
In a recent speech marking the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Chinese Xi Jinping described the party’s ambition to “resolve the Taiwan question” as a “historic mission”.
“No one should underestimate the great determination, the strong will and the extraordinary capacity of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and their territorial integrity,” he said in Beijing to loud applause.
China has pledged never to renounce the use of force against Taiwan. This political position was formalized in the Anti-Secession Law of 2005, which sets out the conditions for using “non-peaceful means” to capture the island, which the People’s Republic of China has never ruled.
Tokyo established formal relations with Beijing in 1972, seven years before Washington also changed allegiance from Taipei.
As part of the diplomatic deal, the Japanese government expressed its “understanding” and “respect” for China’s position that Taiwan is part of its territory. Tokyo maintained this position while emphasizing its informal relations with Taipei through unofficial channels.
Like the US ‘one China’ policy, which ‘recognizes’ but neither acknowledges nor affirms the Chinese position, the ambiguous posture leaves room for maneuver for a range of interactions with Taiwan.
With the escalation of Chinese military pressure on Taiwan as well as Japan in recent years, officials in Tokyo are raising their voices on the need to prevent conflict in the Taiwan Strait.
Perspective of attack by China
At an event hosted by the Hudson Institute think tank on June 28, Japanese Deputy Defense Minister Yasuhide Nakayama said Tokyo and Washington must “wake up” to the prospect of an attack from China.
“We must protect Taiwan as a democratic country,” he said during the discussion, drawing protests from the Chinese Foreign Ministry the next day.
It was the second time last month that a senior Japanese official had mentioned Taiwan in these terms, after Yoshihide Suga angered Beijing by calling Taiwan a country during a National Diet session on June 9.
Analysts say Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party could ride a wave of pro-Taiwan sentiment among the public ahead of the country’s October general election.
Ian Easton, senior director of Project 2049 Institute, said Chinese leader Xi was “particularly keen to annex Taiwan and ordered the [People’s Liberation Army] to undertake a campaign of coercion “against it.
This has “destabilized the security situation in the Taiwan Strait and increased tensions with the United States and its allies,” Easton said. News week before the centenary of the Communist Party on July 1.
Some argue that Xi, set to be re-elected for an unprecedented third term next year, may take an increasingly hawkish stance on Taiwan to secure his leadership position.
Easton says this is open to interpretation, but added: “In any event, it would seem prudent for President Biden and his foreign policy team to assume the continued aggressive behavior of the CCP in all areas and plan for it. worst.”
Update 6/7/21 10:38 AM ET: This The article has been updated with additional comments from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.