Japan fears being drawn into a war in Taiwan

Japan fears being drawn into a war in Taiwan

China's military exercises around Taiwan may be over , but the threat of an invasion of the island in the medium term remains in place. In its “white paper” published on Wednesday and which is intended as a way forward for reunification, Beijing does not renounce the use of force which would be used as a last resort.

Chinese helicopters near Pintgan Island, one of the closest points to Taiwan

Since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan last week, China's reaction and show of force have raised fears for the worst in Tokyo. Japan fears being drawn into a military conflict between China and the United States over the issue of Taiwan.

Decryption and explanations with Antoine Bondaz, director of the Taiwan Program and researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research and Robert Dujarric, co-director of the Department of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan.

Antoine Bondaz:Japan's fears are old and there are several reasons. First, there is geography. It should not be forgotten that some Japanese islands are less than 150 kilometers from Taiwan. If China were to carry out a blockade of the island, this blockade would, in fact, be almost in the exclusive economic zone of Japan or extremely close to the Japanese coast. We have seen this with the areas announced during military exercises by China. Some partially encircled certain Japanese islands.

Second, and this is fundamental, if there were a US military intervention, the US troops closest to Taiwan are not in Hawaii or Guam. They are found in Japan, especially in Okinawa. So an American military intervention would require the mobilization of American troops based in Japan and therefore, in fact, a direct or indirect participation of Japan.

Third, and this is the point that is most discussed today in Tokyo, Japan's security and strategic environment would be extremely degraded if China succeeded in conquering Taiwan by force.

Robert Dujarric: Yes, I think there's been a view in ruling circles in Tokyo for a long time, maybe 25 years, that the Japan could be directly or indirectly attacked by China. It has always been thought in Japan that a Chinese invasion, a Chinese annexation of Taiwan, would be a deadly threat to Japan.

Robert Dujarric:It is still the question of the geographical proximity of the island, the possibility, if China took possession of Taiwan, of installing military bases. Above all, it would demonstrate that China can eliminate an independent, de facto independent state from the region. So the question the Japanese would ask is: could this happen later in South Korea, could Japan be a victim? For them, it would be the start of an international restructuring in the region that would be deeply harmful to Japan.

Robert Dujarric: I believe that it is the extension of the Chinese exercises that is of concern. There have been for a long time. Those seemed to be a little more aggressive, but I believe this is a concern that did not come suddenly, that already existed and was reinforced since Xi Jinping came to power.

Robert Dujarric:The meaning is that China is ready to provoke Japan, but not to cross the red line. These missiles fell outside Japanese territorial waters, so it was not a violation of Japanese territorial sovereignty.

But this is proof for them that China is very aggressive. This is interpreted by the government in Tokyo to mean that Japan should do more to defend itself, which also means that they want the United States to do more to protect Japan.

Our correspondent in Asia Philippe Leblanc will be based in Taiwan for the next few months, to help us discover this island of nearly 24 million inhabitants, its society and the challenges who animate it. And also to cover current issues from the entire Asia-Pacific region.

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