Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration has been deliberating a possible “Taiwan emergency” while trying to save its sagging approval ratings and prepare for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election next year. To deal with all these issues, Kishida on Wednesday reorganized his Cabinet.
Notably, Yoshimasa Hayashi, a known pro-China politician, stepped down as Japanese minister of foreign affairs, whereas Minoru Kihara, a pro-Taiwan politician, has been appointed Japan’s minister of defense. When Kishida was forming his Cabinet two years ago, he appointed Hayashi, the then-president of the Japan-China Friendship Parliamentarians’ Union, to be in charge of foreign affairs. By extending an olive branch to China, Kishida hoped that the relationship between Japan and China could be improved in the post-Shinzo Abe era.
However, after the Russia-Ukraine war began and the US-China rivalry worsened, Japan-China relations continued to deteriorate. Recently, the release of treated water from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant into the waters o the north Pacific not only triggered an anti-Japan movement in China, but also aggravated the relationship between the two countries.
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center last month found that 87 percent of Japanese view China unfavorably. Confronted by the heightened anti-China sentiment in Japan, the Kishida administration has made adjustments. First, Kishida kept his LDP rivals in the Cabinet, including Minister for Economic Security Sanae Takaichi and Minister of Digital Affairs Taro Kono, so that he could monitor them. Kishida also kept his major rival Toshimitsu Motegi as the LDP’s secretary-general so that Motegi would not overstep his bounds.
In response to the “Taiwan emergency,” LDP vice president and former Japanese prime minister Taro Aso visited Taiwan last month, becoming the highest-ranking incumbent LDP official to visit Taiwan since Japan severed formal diplomatic relations with the nation in 1972. Aso was also a good friend of former Japanese prime minister Abe. Calling out to Japan, the US and Taiwan to prepare for war, Aso acted in tandem with Abe’s support for Taiwan and put it into practice. Meanwhile, Aso hinted to Kishida to realize the principle that “a Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency.”
It comes as no great surprise that Kishida appointed Kihara — the secretary-general of the pro-Taiwan Japan-ROC Diet Members’ Consultative Council — as minister of defense. Kihara used to be the LDP Youth Division director, a young and aspiring politician supportive of Taiwan. Kihara was always at Taiwan-related occasions, such as when Japan donated COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan and when the Japanese government promoted Taiwanese pineapples after imports of the fruit were banned by China.
Kihara said that he visited former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) on many occasions. He remembers how he, Lee and Lee’s wife sang Japanese singer Hibari Misora’s famous songs together in a karaoke session. He was so touched by Lee, given that he was only a young representative at the time. To this day, Kihara misses Lee deeply and still views him with great admiration.
In August last year, Kihara visited Lee’s grave at New Taipei City’s Wuchihshan Military Cemetery. When Kihara visited Yonaguni Island in July, he and Legislative Speaker You Si-kun (游錫?) traveled together by boat to Yilan. By the middle of July, in a Japan-US-Taiwan military simulation hosted by the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, he played the role of minister of defense. Now he is Japan’s minister of defense, and is considered to be someone who can do the job with ease.
In Kishida’s new Cabinet, pro-Taiwan politicians have now replaced those who were pro-China. The implication is clear: Kishida might take over Abe’s unfulfilled ambition and carry it on.
Wang Hui-sheng is chief director of the Kisei Ladies’ and Children’s Hospital in Japan.
Translated by Emma Liu
For Xi Jinping (習近平) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the military conquest of Taiwan is an absolute requirement for the CCP’s much more fantastic ambition: control over our solar system. Controlling Taiwan will allow the CCP to dominate the First Island Chain and to better neutralize the Philippines, decreasing the threat to the most important People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Strategic Support Force (SSF) space base, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. Satellite and manned space launches from the Jiuquan and Xichang Satellite Launch Centers regularly pass close to Taiwan, which is also a very serious threat to the PLA,
Taiwan is beautiful — no doubt about it. In Taipei, the streets are clean, the skyline is gorgeous and the subway is world-class. The coastline is easily accessible and mountains can be seen in the distance. The people are hardworking, successful and busy. Every luxury known to humankind is available and people live on their smartphones. As an American visiting for the first time, here are some things I learned about the country. First, people from Taiwan and America love freedom and democracy and have for many years. When we defeated Japan in 1945, Taiwan was freed from Japanese rule. In
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