Japan: The next major player in the Taiwan Strait?

(From the National Interest)

By Emily S. Chen

In his recent talk with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, China’s Director of the Taiwan Affairs Office Zhang Zhijun reiterated Beijing’s cross-Strait policy. Beijing will continue to uphold the 1992 Consensus, which accepts “one China” but allows strategic uncertainty surrounding its precise definition, resolutely opposes to any form of secessionist activities seeking Taiwan independence and firmly safeguards national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Japanese Navy ships in East China Sea

Japanese Navy ships in East China Sea

As Taiwan’s president-elect Tsai Ing-wen and her traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) still decline to accept the “One-China” principle of the 1992 consensus, the future of cross-strait relations is fraught with uncertainty. While it is important for the DPP to find “a mutually acceptable mode of interaction between Taiwan and the mainland,”  changes of the strategic situation in the Asia-Pacific region and the close people-to-people relations between Taiwan and Japan have given Tsai Ing-wen a new opportunity to cooperate with Japan in the cross-Strait issues, which currently involve only Taiwan, China and the United States.

A changing strategic environment in the Asia-Pacific

Since the Obama administration announced its “pivot”—later termed the “rebalance”—to the Asia-Pacific region in 2009, the United States has focused on strengthening and modernizing its alliance with Japan. The new Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation (“the Guidelines”), which was announced in April 2015, has reinforced alliance cooperation without preset geographical limits and enabled “seamless and effective” alliance responses to security threats. Japan’s enactment of two new security bills later that year has also expanded the scope of its Self-Defense Forces (SDF)’s activities overseas and broadened the areas in which they can operate. This enhancement of Japan’s defense posture allows Japan to play a greater role in the regional security, which seems to create a strategic environment from which Taiwan could benefit in managing ties with Beijing. Read more



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