Japan Illustration: Liu Rui/Global Times
Although U.S. and Japanese military officials have been planning for a conflict over the island of Taiwan for more than a year, Japan’s reluctance over the plan suggests that Japan’s public attention to the Taiwan issue is waning and Japan is not. The ability or courage to face the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) head-on, experts said on Sunday.
According to a Wall Street Journal report on Saturday, Washington urged Tokyo to consider roles for the Japanese military, such as hunting down Chinese submarines around the island of Taiwan.
The U.S. military lacks the ability to take full control, so it calls on allies, especially Japan, to send troops to conduct joint operations with the U.S., Beijing-based military expert Wei Dongsu told the Global Times on Sunday.
Although Japanese officials have announced that Japan is willing to cooperate with the US in intervening with military force in the Taiwan Strait, this rhetoric has not previously posed a direct threat to Japan. But if the US gives Japan special tasks, for example asking the Self-Defense Forces, especially the Maritime Self-Defense Force, to conduct joint anti-submarine exercises against PLA submarines, Japan will be reluctant, as this could lead to conflicts. Experts said.
Japan’s main concern now is that it sees an overall increase in the power of China and the PLA. In other words, Japan may not have the strength or courage to rush to the front and confront the PLA head-on, Wei said.
Observers point out that Japan is less likely to engage in direct combat, and Japanese leaders have publicly avoided discussing a role in the cross-strait conflict because public opinion is generally against engaging in a conflict.
The US is seeking more clarity from Japan as the two sides seek to develop a joint action plan including supply routes, missile launch sites and refugee evacuation plans, people familiar with the talks say.
Although the Japanese military is prepared to gather intelligence and deploy bases against the direction of the island of Taiwan, such advance military deployments are distinct from direct participation or intervention in conflicts. Wei said that once Japan gets involved in such a Taiwan Strait conflict provoked by the United States, Japan itself will suffer significant losses.
In recent years, to the ire of former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, some in Japan have claimed that “any contingency in Taiwan is Japan’s contingency.” However, experts said the slogan was a conceptual statement. “Actually, it is still unknown whether the US will directly intervene in the event of a situation in the Taiwan Strait. In this case, if Japan takes the initiative or passively intervenes, it will face a crisis,” Wang Guangto, an associate research fellow. Shanghai-based Fudan University’s Center for Japanese Studies told the Global Times.
Once the U.S. formulates specific plans, Japan is more wary of directly intervening in the conflict, which also reflects a weakening of Japan’s priority on the Taiwan issue, Wang noted.