/ July 7, 2021
In the event of an attempt by China’s military to seize Taiwan, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces would join any U.S.-led defense of the island democracy, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said.
“If a major problem took place in Taiwan, it would not be too much to say that it could relate to a survival-threatening situation [for Japan],” Aso told reporters on July 5. “We need to think hard that Okinawa could be next.”
The remarks by Aso prompted a swift rebuke from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
“Those remarks are extremely wrong and dangerous as they severely violate principles set out in the four political documents between China and Japan and undermine the political foundation of China-Japan relations,” Zhao told reporters in Beijing.
Aso’s comments followed remarks last month by former White House Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger, who disclosed the importance of Taiwan to the Japanese military.
“There’s a saying in the Japanese military that Taiwan‘s defense is Japan‘s defense,” Pottinger said during a June conference. “And I think that Japan will act accordingly.”
A Chinese air force training manual contains references on the importance of the Chinese Communist Party annexing Taiwan at some point in the future, Pottinger said.
“It’s all about Japan,” Pottinger said. “If you read the excerpt of that manual, it basically says that China is going to take Taiwan in order to render Japan unable to wage war, unable to even defend itself, unable to even supply itself, and that if Taiwan were taken, basically China would be able to dominate the region and render Japan irrelevant.”
“The signal to China is, ‘Don’t mistake Japan‘s rhetorical politeness for a weakness in our determination to defend Japan‘s strategic interests in the Taiwan Strait,’ ” Tkacik said.
Former U.S. State Department official John Tkacik said Japanese leaders appear united in viewing a Chinese assault on Taiwan as an existential threat.
A Pentagon spokesman sidestepped questions on July 6 about Aso’s pledge to join any U.S.-led defense Taiwan.
“Nobody wants to see the situation dissolve into conflict and there’s no reason for it to,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, when asked about Aso’s comments.
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