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Japan defense paper mentions importance of Taiwan peace for first time

ROC Central News Agency

07/13/2021 08:40 PM

Taipei, July 13 (CNA) Japan for the first time mentioned the importance of maintaining stability around Taiwan in its annual defense report released Tuesday as Taiwanese scholars said the move shows Tokyo is now taking a clearer stance over the Taiwan issue.

"Stabilizing the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for Japan's security and the stability of the international community," according to the "Defense of Japan 2021" paper released by the Japanese government earlier in the day.

"Therefore, it is necessary that we pay close attention to the situation with a sense of crisis more than ever before," the paper says.

The Taiwan issue is addressed in a section on the "U.S.-China Relationship" under the heading "Security Environment Surrounding Japan" part of the paper.

In the section, the report warns of increased competition between Washington and Beijing across political, economic and military realms.

As the two world powers clash, it could affect peace and stability in the region, the paper says, while calling on Japan to pay closer attention to Chinese and U.S.' military movements in the Indo-Pacific region, in particular in the South China Sea and near Taiwan.

The paper continues to point out that China has further intensified military activities around Taiwan by continuing to send military aircraft into Taiwan's southwest air defense identification zone.

It also notes that the overall military balance between the

two sides of the Taiwan Strait is tilting in China's favor, and the gap appears to be growing year by year.

Asked to comment, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) welcomed Japan's decision to emphasize peace around the country in its defense report, saying that doing so is in line with a series of joint statements issued by Tokyo, the U.S. and other countries over the past months, including a joint statement which highlighted "the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait" issued by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Joe Biden in April following a summit.

It marked the first time in 52 years that the leaders of Japan and the U.S. have referred to Taiwan in a joint statement.

MOFA said the latest move shows that the Japanese government has made maintaining cross-strait peace a top priority, for which Taiwan expressed its gratitude.

Meanwhile, three military experts in Taiwan said Tuesday that by putting Taiwan in its defense report, Japan is now taking a clearer strategic stance in terms of cross-strait issues.

Shu Hsiao-huang (舒孝煌), an analyst at the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), told CNA that Japan has always had concerns over possible changes in the cross-strait status quo.

However, in the past Tokyo used to take a more conservative and cautious approach instead of expressing such concern explicitly, he said.

However, since Suga succeeded Shinzo Abe as Japan's prime minister in late August last year, Tokyo has taken a clearer stance on the Taiwan issue, due to a change of environment in the region as well as its relationship with Washington and closer ties with Taipei, Su said.

Lin Ying-yu (林穎佑), an assistant professor at National Chung Cheng University's Institute of Strategic and International Affairs, said the Japanese government is not particularly interested in keeping Taiwan safe but more in the maintenance of stability across the Taiwan Strait.

This is because the Taiwan Strait is a strategically important waterway for Japan, Lin said.

Echoing Lin's view, Chang Yen-ting (張延廷), a retired Air Force lieutenant general in Taiwan, told CNA that Tokyo is beginning to realize that maintaining cross-strait peace and security is of paramount importance to Japan's own interests.

After all, Japan's cargo ships largely depend on travelling trough the Taiwan Strait. If Taiwan is taken over by China, that lifeline for Japan in terms of sea travel will be seriously threatened, and Tokyo would no longer hold a leading position in the world stage economically and politically, Chang added.

(By Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)


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