US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Saturday last week expressed their opposition to any unilateral attempts to change the “status quo” in the East and South China seas by force or threat, and reiterated the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
The special mention of Taiwan at their meeting in Washington is globally significant for at least two reasons.
The first is their reinterpretation and expansion of the US-Japan Security Treaty.
When the Japanese government in 1999 proposed new guidelines for US-Japan defense cooperation to the Japanese parliament, it amended the definition of the “situations in areas surrounding Japan” with an important influence on its peace and security, emphasizing that “area” is not merely a geographical term, but describes the nature of a situation.
It also gave six examples: imminent armed conflict in its vicinity; ongoing armed conflict; past armed conflict after which order has not yet been restored and maintained; insurrection or civil war affecting Japan’s security; a likely influx of refugees due to political turmoil elsewhere; and acts defined by the UN Security Council as aggressions.
Whether cross-strait issues are “situations in areas surrounding Japan” in terms of the US-Japan alliance has since caused international attention and concern.
Following the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee in March, the talks in Washington once again stressed the importance of peace and stability across the Strait, while revising and more clearly defining the concept of “situations in areas surrounding Japan.”
Second, a quasi-military alliance between Taiwan, the US and Japan has emerged.
Washington has continuously played a key role in maintaining security in the Indo-Pacific region.
Despite there being no formal military partnership between the three countries, the growing Chinese threats against Taiwan’s aerial and maritime zones extend to threats to Japan’s national security.
If Washington were to take the initiative, it could push for the formation of a three-way quasi-military alliance, using existing exchange mechanisms such as the US-Japan Security Alliance and Taiwan-US military cooperation.
After then-US president Richard Nixon and then-Japanese prime minister Eisaku Sato in 1969 included Taiwan in a joint statement after a US-Japan summit, Taiwan being mentioned in Biden’s and Suga’s statement 52 years later is significant.
It is a declaration to the world that a strategic cooperation and quasi-military alliance between the three nations is taking shape, as they team up against the Chinese Communist Party’s military expansion in the Asia-Pacific region.
Yao Chung-yuan is a professor and former deputy director of the Ministry of National Defense’s strategic planning department.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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