In 1895, Japan invaded Taiwan and occupied the country for five decades until 1945, when the Japanese side lost World War II and ceded the territory to the Republic of China (ROC). Four years later, in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took control of the mainland while the ROC withdrew to Taiwan.
Today, the tables have turned. The Japanese are now willing to fight for Taiwan against the aggressive CCP, which seeks to annex the island under its “One China” policy.
During a Hudson Institute online forum on June 28, Yasuhide Nakayama, Japan’s state minister of defense, stated that his country is “family with Taiwan” and that the security of Taiwan “is clearly related to Okinawa’s protection.”
Okinawa is the fifth largest island in Japan and home to the country’s maritime and air defense forces. The American air force, Marine Corps, naval support facilities, and families of service members are located on the island.
Nakayama stated that Chinese leader Xi Jinping is trying to create the impression that the Taiwanese are surrounded by having ships and aircraft conduct exercises and patrols close to Taiwan.
China recently sent 28 fighter jets across the Taiwan Strait, with some of them flying into Taiwanese air space in an attempt to intimidate the island. Some of the exercises are conducted jointly with Russia, which poses “lots of threats to Taiwan.” Nakayama insisted that “we have to show deterrence to China and Russia,” according to USNI.
In a write-up at Nippon.com, Kanehara Nobukatsu, a visiting professor at Doshisha University, warns that “a security crisis for Taiwan would be a security crisis for Japan.” He notes that Taiwan is just 100 kilometers away from Yonaguni Island, which is part of the Okinawa prefecture.
If China and Taiwan were to engage in war, he believes that Beijing would cut off all of the island’s submarine communication cables and impose a naval blockade in the region.
“It (China) would then establish a vast exclusion zone around the island and use its military might to deny entry to commercial vessels and airliners as well as warships and military aircraft. Japan’s outlying islands—Yonaguni, Iriomote, Miyako, and Ishigaki, as well as the Senkakus—would likely fall within this zone and be engulfed in the conflict,” Nobukatsu writes.
In an interview with Bloomberg in late June, Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi stated that the peace and stability of Taiwan is ”directly connected” to Japan. “We are closely monitoring ties between China and Taiwan, as well as Chinese military activity… As China strengthens its military, its balance with Taiwan is tipping heavily to the Chinese side,” Kishi said.
During his speech at the centennial celebration of the founding of the CCP on July 1, Xi Jinping said that “solving the Taiwan question” and “complete reunification” of the motherland is one of the “unswerving historical tasks” of the CCP.
In response, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said that the Taiwanese have rejected the “One China principle,” which claims that the island is part of China. The council asked Beijing to abandon its military intimidation tactics.
Japan supporting Taiwan and the U.S. in a possible war against China places Beijing in a tough situation. China has almost 360 front-line vessels, while the U.S. Pacific Fleet only has 200 combat ships. Adding in the Japanese fleet would help to level the playing field. As part of Taiwan’s allied force, much of Japan’s focus would likely go into defending the Miyako Strait, journalist David Axe wrote in a Forbes article.
The Miyako Strait is a narrow passageway between Okinawa and Japanese island Miyakojima, which is just 277 miles from Taiwan. “There are two ways for Chinese forces to break out into the Philippine Sea. One, they could fly or sail around southern Taiwan through the Bashi Strait, southeast of the island… The other option is to punch through the Miyako Strait,” Axe wrote.
“If Japan joined the war over Taiwan, it could transform the Miyako Strait into one of the most dangerous waterways in the world.” Japan’s wartime doctrine places a strong focus on defending the strait.
Tokyo has been fortifying islands in the Miyako Strait and deploying military assets in the region. Chinese ships breaking into the area will have to face off against Japanese submarines and vessels, as well as surface-to-air missiles and anti-ship missiles.
“A clear willingness by Japan to send its troops into battle over Taiwan severely could complicate Chinese planning. Perhaps to the point of making an invasion unacceptably risky,” Axe writes.
In 2019, the then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided to expand the country’s military planning due to a Chinese threat to the Senkaku Islands and Taiwan.
A report published in the Financial Times on July 1 states that the United States and Japan have been conducting secret war games and exercises amidst rising China-Taiwan tensions. The Japanese and American militaries began preparing for the conflict during the last year of Trump’s administration. The secret joint exercises are being held in the East China and South China seas.
“In many ways, the People’s Liberation Army drove the US and Japan together and toward new thinking on Taiwan… Assertiveness around the Senkaku and Taiwan at the same time drives home the issue of proximity,” Randy Schriver, who served as the top Pentagon official for Asia until the end of 2019, said to the media outlet.