‘Heightening tensions’ in the Taiwan Strait: China can’t get Japan out of its mind

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Originally published by Japan-Forward

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A Chinese acquaintance contacted me the other day. He was worried about Japan “heightening tensions” in the region.  His questions offered interesting insights into mainland Chinese thinking, and indeed, obsession with Japan.

Here’s what he asked, and here’s what I told him.

My Friend’s Concerns:

While Japan is watching developments in the Taiwan Strait with a great deal of concern due to the implications on its own security, it also appears to be taking steps that might be seen as exacerbating tensions in the region, my acquaintance suggested.

He mentioned that these include visits by Japanese politicians to Taiwan, and Tokyo considering the deployment of 1,000 long-range cruise missiles to boost its counterattack capability against China. In fact, he emphasized, China has said that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will certainly counter any attempts by Japan and the United States to create two Chinas.

Then he asked me, “Do you think there is a worry that Japan might indirectly contribute to or heighten tensions in the region and the Taiwan Straits?”

Here’s What I Said:

No, I don’t think there is any worry of Japan heightening tensions in the region. Japan has been a model of humane democracy and liberalism for the last 75 years.

It has never threatened its neighbors, I reminded him, and it doesn’t pose a threat to anybody. The Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) currently has no ability to project power or conduct any meaningful offensive operations, as it can barely conduct “defensive” operations. And the Japanese government has no interest in attacking anybody.

Who’s Picking a Fight?

The report of JSDF deploying 1,000 extended-range cruise missiles to the Nansei Shoto is only a problem for a country that intends to attack Japan and seize Japanese territory, I explained. These missiles have no use in an offensive scenario.

It should be pointed out that from 2016-2020, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) built more warships than the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force has in its entire fleet. And nobody in Japan (or anywhere else, for that matter) has ever talked of attacking China.

So, I asked my Chinese acquaintance, why is the PRC engaging in the biggest, fastest military buildup in history? To intimidate and attack other countries. Now that is heightening tensions.

The PRC’s recent blockade/invasion rehearsal against Taiwan was also a “tension heightener” – to say the least.

Shooting missiles into Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – and reportedly on President Xi Jinping‘s orders – is just the PRC picking a fight with Japan.

Japanese Politicians Visit Taiwan All The Time 

As for Japanese politicians visiting Taiwan? Japanese politicians have been visiting Taiwan for decades, I pointed out. But it’s just now that Beijing claims it is heightening tensions. That’s hard to believe. And it sounds like an excuse or cover for China attacking Taiwan.

The PRC’s recent Taiwan White Paper is also alarming. It tells the free people of Taiwan (in so many words): “Surrender or we will kill you.”  That is not how civilized nations are supposed to behave in the 21st century.

The idea that Japan is stoking tension in the region sounds like a comedy routine.

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