With the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) about to begin and China's anti-secession legislation set to take center stage, the US and Japan have adjusted the US-Japan Security Treaty by saying that dialogue and a peaceful resolution of the cross-strait standoff should be a shared regional security objective. Japan's foreign ministry spokesman also placed Taiwan unambiguously within the scope of the treaty.
Under pressure from China's legal war on Taiwanese independence, Taipei can only feel relief. Officials at the American Institute in Taiwan also said that Washington has expressed the hope that Beijing will stop working on the anti-secession legislation, which should further relieve Taipei.
Anyone who thinks these developments are the result of Taiwan's lobbying is overestimating Taiwan's endurance. The US-Japan security statement should be seen as the result of US and Japanese concern over China's increasing national and military strength and as an attempt to deter China. As Japan's foreign affairs spokesperson said: "While we maintain a good relationship with China, we must pay attention to China's military direction."
Taiwan is merely one variable and resource for the US and Japan as they consider their own national interests.
This is not to say that American and Japanese attitudes are unhelpful or outright detrimental to Taiwan, but their actions allow us to see a cruel reality: Squeezed between these three imperialist nations, there isn't much that Taiwan can do to influence them.
Following the US-Japan security statement, China's foreign affairs spokesperson issued a strong protest, but the commentaries by the Chinese foreign ministry, the People's Daily and the Xinhua news agency contained nothing new. On Monday last week, the Chinese Communist Party's political bureau met to discuss the government's work report to the CPPCC. They probably discussed the US-Japan security statement, but we have yet to see any new official reaction to what the People's Daily describes as "blatant provocation and interference in China's sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security."
Though we should pay attention to any further response from China before the CPPCC meeting this month, it will surely be difficult for Beijing to counterbalance the strength of the US and Japan.
Taipei reacted cautiously to the statement, and officials have yet to express any outward delight. This is the correct response. Compared with a cooperating US and Japan, China and Taiwan are weak, and compared with China, Taiwan is weak. The inclusion of the Taiwan Strait in the US-Japan Security Treaty shows that Taiwan is valuable to the two, and it is therefore in their interests to assist in its defense.
But this suggests that even if Taiwan is not a trigger for conflict in the region, US-Japan-China relations will have an impact on Taiwan. When the situation in the Middle East stabilizes, a defensive war between the Asia-Pacific region's powers could begin at any time. Taiwan could then become a key battlefield in deciding the battle for supremacy between China and the US.
Because Taiwan cannot directly challenge the structures that sustain world powers, it must clearly understand that stability in the Taiwan Strait is necessary and that the utmost effort must be exerted to maintain it.