Recently, a comment posted by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the Project union website has become quite the topic of conversation. Project union publishes and disseminates commentary and analysis from global thought leaders in economics, politics, science and technology, and culture.
Abe’s article caused a stir. When it was published on the Project union for about two days, it had been picked up by local media in about 30 countries and regions, including the United States, France, Germany, Ukraine, India, and Hong Kong, generating significant response.
In his commentary, Abe argues that the situation in Taiwan should be seen through the prism of the scenario that unfolds during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He proposes that the time has come for Washington to change its longstanding position of “strategic ambiguity” towards Taiwan, and to impress on everyone America’s determination to defend Taiwan.
More than four decades ago, in 1979, the United States Congress enacted the Taiwan Relations Act, which promised that the United States would provide Taiwan with the weapons and supplies necessary for the island democracy to be able to defend itself in the event of armed conflict with China.
Nonetheless, every administration since then has maintained a policy of strategic ambiguity by refusing to state outright whether the United States would intervene militarily to defend Taiwan in the event of an armed attack by China.
Abe argued against the politics of the 1970s in his article saying, “Times have changed.” He then added, “The United States’ policy of ambiguity towards Taiwan is now fostering instability in the Indo-Pacific region.”
When the Russian invasion of Ukraine loomed, the Biden administration’s early rejection of US military intervention as an option was a factor in the failure to deter aggression from Moscow.
In the case of Taiwan as well, by refusing to specify whether it would intervene in the event of a crisis, the United States risks making the Chinese leaders conclude that they will not do so and that they are therefore free to act.
If such a crisis were to arise, it is almost certain that Japan would end up getting involved.
Abe had already warned of the danger to Japan before the Ukrainian invasion began. In a speech he gave at a virtual Taiwanese think tank event held on Dec. 1, he said, “If Taiwan is forcibly invaded (by China), it will inevitably lead to serious crisis concerning the national territory of Japan. A contingency for Taiwan is a contingency for Japan and a contingency for the Japan-US alliance.
Then, during a round table sponsored by Seiron magazine, which was held in Kyushu on December 19, Abe further explained the reason for his statement. “If China were to invade Taiwan, it could well turn into an existential crisis for Japan.”
“We have to make it clear in advance that we could be facing a really consequential situation,” he added.
According to peace and security legislation passed under the Abe administration in 2015, if “an attack occurs against a foreign country with close ties to Japan, it could therefore threaten the survival of Japan”. This would constitute an “existential crisis” and fulfill one of three conditions that must be met for Japan to exercise its right of limited collective self-defense.
A Taiwanese crisis would certainly create conditions that would threaten Japan’s existence as defined by law.
Some observers believe Russia’s failure to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and quickly conclude its invasion is forcing China’s leaders to reconsider their own plans to invade Taiwan. Even if this is true, Beijing will never give up its dream of taking over Taiwan.
Mr Abe’s remarks also drew global attention as, under the Obama administration, the United States declared that it would no longer be the policeman of the world. The world is now watching to see if the United States, which was held back in its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, would change its position in the future.
The 2021 report on military and security developments involving the People’s Republic of China that the United States Department of Defense sent to Congress in November 2021 states: “Significant reorganizations and amphibious assault training at sea in recent years likely indicate that supporting an operation in Taiwan is a high-level operation. priority for the [Chinese] Army.”
Elsewhere, this same report notes that in 2020, China “has intensified its efforts to challenge Japan’s control over the [Senkaku] he is.”
The time has come for Japan to no longer hesitate to increase its defense spending to the equivalent of 2% of GDP, or even to debate the advisability of our country having a deterrent in the form of nuclear sharing. . Not to do so would be deplorable.
IINTERVIEW | Shinzo Abe: ‘No country will fight alongside a defenseless Japan’
Taiwan threat assessment: What if China hits the Senkakus first?
(Read the column in Japanese on this link.)
Author: Rui Abiru