Japan’s view that its security is “inextricable tied” to Taiwan’s has gone from words to actions, as Tokyo for the first time is participating in exercises to deter Chinese aggression, an expert in Asia-Pacific affairs said Monday.
“Beijing has to make an estimate of U.S. and Japanese will” to defend Taiwan against overt aggression before it could switch its current tactics from psychological coercion, violations of Taiwanese airspace, and putting higher economic barriers on Taipei to an outright invasion, according to Patrick Cronin, the Asia-Pacific Security Chair at the Hudson Institute.
What Xi Jinping and the Central Military Commission would see right now are not words in a Japanese Ministry of Defense white paper signaling a shift in Tokyo’s view of roles and missions in securing a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, but Japan actively engaged with the United States and other partners, like the United Kingdom, “in realistic exercises” to deter Chinese military moves against itself and Taiwan.
He pointed out that Okinawa, home to large numbers of American and Japanese forces, is less than 500 miles from Taiwan, raising its value as a partner to Tokyo and Washington. “We have 50,000 troops in the region [close to Taiwan and the Chinese mainland] thanks to Japan,” Cronin said.
As China sent hundreds of fighter aircraft, some escorting bombers, into Taiwan’s air identification zone this weekend to mark Beijing’s National Day, Japan was participating in one of the largest naval exercises this year off Okinawa, with aircraft carriers from the United States and United Kingdom and surface ships from the Netherlands, Canada and New Zealand.
One component of the exercise was building the interoperability of forces in a crisis.