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Would Japan Come to Taiwan’s Aid if China Invaded?

Japan-China War
Image: Creative Commons.

In light of China’s increasingly assertive regional behavior and continued military buildup, Japan appears to be increasingly linking its own security with that of Taiwan.

The Chinese military threat to Taiwan is increasing, and comments by Japanese officials have signaled that Japan’s willingness to act in defense of Taiwan is also growing. This has led to increased speculation about the conditions under which Japan may choose to actively take part in the defense of Taiwan following a Chinese invasion of the island, as well as the role that Japan might play in such a scenario.

Would Japan Save Taiwan if China Invades?

Recent comments by a host of senior Japanese officials have suggested that Japan increasingly views its own national security as heavily dependent on the future status of Taiwan, and that there may be a growing shift in the country’s willingness to come to the aid of Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion attempt. Earlier this month, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported on comments made by Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Aso Taro during a fundraising event for a fellow Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker. During the event, the Deputy Prime Minister reportedly told attendees that a major problem in Taiwan could amount to a “survival threatening situation [for Japan]”.

If Taiwan was to be invaded, said Aso, Japan would “need to think hard that Okinawa could be the next [target]”.

The Deputy Prime Minister’s comments follow comments by Japan’s Vice Minister of Defense Nakayama Yasuhide, who last month said that the world needed to “wake up” regarding the threat posed to Taiwan by China and the need to protect the island “as a democratic country.” Japanese Minister of Defense Kishi Nobu has directly linked Taiwanese security with that of Japan, saying in an interview following the incursion of a record-breaking 28 Chinese warplanes into Taiwanese airspace that peace and stability for Taiwan “are directly connected to Japan”.

Experts have suggested that these comments hint at a growing willingness within Japan to come to the aid of Taiwan if called upon by the United States or if the conflict involved Chinese aggression directed against outlying islands under Japanese control. In the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, it is also possible that Japan may be drawn into the conflict as a result of Chinese attacks against U.S. forces and facilities in Japan and against the Japanese Self Defense Force in an attempt to quickly take them out of the fight in an attempt to pursue a rapid fait accompli.

A Change in Military Strategy?

In light of the apparent shift in Japanese willingness to support military efforts to defend Taiwan, some experts have commented on the need for Japan to pursue military capabilities that will allow it to do so effectively. Much of this has focused on Japan’s development of new long-range fire capabilities. Japan has been pursuing improved anti-ship capabilities as a means to counter the threat posed by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), and some have called for these efforts to be supplemented by long-range cruise and ballistic missile weapons capable of targeting the Chinese military bases and ports that support its offensive power projection capabilities.

Written By

Eli Fuhrman is an Assistant Researcher in Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest and a recent graduate of Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program, where he focusedd on East Asian security issues and U.S. foreign and defense policy in the region.

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