At the G7 summit in Germany late last month, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida criticized China for sending vessels near the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan). He took issue with Beijing for its exploration of gas fields in Japanese waters in the East China Sea, and for threatening the security of the Indo-Pacific region.
Kishida also said that China should not be allowed to change the “status quo” by force, and specifically referred to the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. He called on G7 nations to strengthen security cooperation with Indo-Pacific nations.
After the G7 meeting, Kishida attended the NATO summit in Madrid. It was the first time Japan and South Korea were invited to the summit. Their attendance shows that the Europe and the US’ strategic center of gravity is shifting to the Indo-Pacific region.
Kishida’s address at the summit expressed a thought of every attendee: “Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow.”
Although the war in Ukraine continues to rage, the real threat to world peace is not Russia, a declining power, but China, with its expansionist ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region.
Kishida stressed that Japan would bolster its defenses in the next five years, and pledged that his administration would significantly increase the national defense budget.
China immediately hit back by convening a discussion forum in Beijing and drawing upon former Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, whose family has a history of close ties with China.
At the forum, the fourth-generation pro-China, anti-US propagandist — who holds the dubious record of being Japan’s shortest-serving prime minister, from Sept. 16, 2009, to June 8, 2010 — stated that China’s claims to the Senkaku Islands were reasonable, and lambasted Kishida’s views on China, which he said were “encouraging Taiwanese independence.”
Beijing’s reaction and use of Hatoyama as a spokesperson prove that Kishida’s intentions are correct. Much of Japan’s current strategic planning around national security and foreign diplomacy, including Kishida’s public remarks at the G7 and NATO summits, demonstrate substantial support for Taiwanese independence.
The rationale behind Japan’s positioning is clear: An independent, self-governing Taiwan is a vital impediment to China’s expansionist strategy.
Before Kishida assumed office, observers in Taiwan worried about his past inclinations toward the pro-China wing of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, and wondered if he would he continue on the trajectory of the administration of former prime minster Shinzo Abe, which displayed its strong support for Taiwan.
Today we can say that those fears were unfounded, and this should not be surprising. After all, Japan’s long-term strategic interest does not alter with the whims of each prime minister. Although Kishida might have previously shown goodwill toward China, he is clearly deeply cognizant of the threat China poses to Japan’s security — and even to world peace.
Taiwan should respond to Kishida’s firm support for the nation by signaling that it looks forward to deepening bilateral relations as close allies.
Now in its second term, President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration should cast off the confusing and perplexing name “Republic of China” and tell the world that this peaceful fortress within the Indo-Pacific region stands firmly in the camp of other liberal democracies, and resolutely resists annexation by the dictatorship in the People’s Republic of China.
Tommy Lin is director of Wu Fu Eye Clinic and president of the Formosa Republican Association.
Translated by Edward Jones
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