郭宝胜 Baosheng Guo

Unite the U.S. and Japan to Prevent the Invasion of Taiwan by China   



Along with the tension escalating in the Taiwan Strait, China's ambition to invade Taiwan by force becomes more and more apparent. What are the positions and views of Taiwan, the U.S, and Japan on this tension? If China attacks Taiwan by force, will they unite to protect Taiwan by force? We should research these questions by studying the U.S. Policy of Taiwan based on Taiwan Relation Act (TRA), the geopolitical interest between Japan and Taiwan, and the relationship between Japan and the U.S based on the U.S--Japan Security Treaty. We may eventually find it is possible to unite the U.S. and Japan to Prevent the Invasion of Taiwan by China.  To answer these questions, we will analyze their position in this order: China, Taiwan, the U.S., and Japan.  

First, we should know the true purpose of China in Taiwan. When China’s President Xi took office in 2012, he obviously advanced the process that takes back Taiwan through the military. He declared that the China Dream includes reunification with Taiwan and revenge for the Century of Humiliation. Xi just remarked on CCP’s 100 anniversary July 1st in 2021, that “Resolving the Taiwan question and realizing China’s complete reunification is a historic mission and an unshakable commitment of the Communist Party of China.” On October 1, China National Day President Xi said, “Nobody should underestimate the staunch determination, firm will and powerful ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty.” In addition, China’s military force already has become very powerful and even surpassed the U.S. in some parts. On China’s National Day this year, China’s air force sent 150 fighter jets to enter Taiwan's air defense zone. China’s aircraft carriers circumnavigated the Taiwan island many times during recent years. All this indicates that China has the ambition and ability for reunification of Taiwan by force.   

To face the threat of invasion, Taiwan needs not only self-defense, but also aid from the alliance. For the relationship with China, Taiwan’s government still implements the Perseverance State Quo policy. This policy means Taiwan is not a part of China, but Taiwan couldn’t pursue legitimate independence. Because of the escalating tension, Taiwan has constantly communicated firm determination to resist China’s invade. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s government urged the U.S and other democracies to protect Taiwan. Taiwan’s female president Tsai, Ing-Wen. has emphasized that Taiwan’s trouble is the U. S’s trouble. She has always said, “And they should remember that if Taiwan were to fall, the consequences would be catastrophic for regional peace and the democratic alliance system. It would signal that in today’s global contest of values, authoritarianism has the upper hand over democracy” (Tsai, 23). 

How does the U.S deal with this tension? The U.S.’s Taiwan policy is based on The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and Strategic Ambiguity. TRA was enacted by the U.S Congress on April 10, 1979, after the U.S built up the official relationship with China (PRC) in 1979 and cut off the official relationship with Taiwan (Republic of China) at the same time. According to what Professor Shelley Rigger wrote about TRA, “The law gives Taiwan a unique legal and political position, with the country being neither formally recognized nor entirely abandoned” (Rigger, 11). In TRA Section 2, It is said, “To consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, is a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States; to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character; and to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.” As professor Shelley Rigger wrote, "It backs up that expectation with the promise of arms sales and a requirement that the U.S maintain the ability to help Taiwan resist coercion” (Rigger, 11). In fact, the TRA indicates the U.S can maintain the balance of power in Taiwan Strait on two sides, also the U.S will have grave concern and launch resistance if China invades the island. 

Strategic Ambiguity comes from the TRA, and it means the U.S. has no clear declaration whether it will defend Taiwan by force when China attacks the island. For instance, in October 2021, the Secretary of Defense Austin noted that he won’t engage in hypotheticals when the reporter asked whether the U.S. military would come to fight for Taiwan if it will be attacked by China. Strategic Ambiguity can lead to Taiwan making itself powerful and discouraging the strength of independence in Taiwan. As professor Dennis V. Hickey wrote in The Diplomat, “The TRA encourages both Beijing and Taipei to behave responsibly. In other words, uncertainty breeds restraint...It is likely that the current policy – albeit ambiguous and contradictory – will continue to serve American interests. As R. Nicolas Burns, Biden’s pick to be U.S. ambassador to China, observed during his confirmation hearings, Strategic ambiguity is “time tested” and “the smartest and most effective way” to prevent a war across the Taiwan Strait” (Hickey). 

Nevertheless, because the situation is worsening in the Taiwan Strait, the U.S began to change its Taiwan policy a little bit. This year, President Biden said twice that the U.S will come to Taiwan’s defense if China attacks Taiwan. Once was that he told ABC News in August this year, another was when he answered questions in CNN Townhall meeting in Baltimore in October. Also, Secretary of State Blinken urged all democratic states to support Taiwan’s participation in the activity of the U.N. The words of Biden were not accidental, in fact, this is the whole strategy of the White House. Most officers insist on Strategic Ambiguity but the U.S needs one significant person to speak with Strategic Clarity to China, which can prevent China's misjudgment on Taiwan. As professor Matthew Kroenig wrote in Foreign Policy, “The clearest path to a war over Taiwan in my view would come if CCP leaders miscalculate; they might assume that they can get away with a successful takeover of the island, when, in fact, they cannot. So, by clarifying the U.S. commitment, Washington would be doing Beijing a service—President Joe Biden would be helping them not to miscalculate” (Ashford et al.). 

Meanwhile, the U.S constantly strengthens the military power of Taiwan, by selling more arms and fighter aircraft and sending Marine officers to train Taiwan’s military. So, the U. S.’s Taiwan policy is still to maintain the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait and starting to walk slowly to Strategic Clarity from Strategic Ambiguity now.  

After the U.S., Japan has the great concern about China’s aggression for Taiwan. From 1895 to end of the World War Two, Taiwan was a colony of Japan. In 1950, Japan gave up its dominant authority on Taiwan through Japan's signing of the Treaty of San Francisco. But Japan’s culture has remarkably impacted the Taiwanese people. Japan and Taiwan have a close geopolitical relationship. As Professor June Teufel Dreyer wrote in Asia Policy, “The outlook for Taiwan-Japan relations is a continuation of warm relations just below the level, that Beijing would deem to have crossed the line from unofficial to official relations” (Dreyer,161). Because of this relationship, Japan could not ignore if China invades Taiwan. Also, if China conquers Taiwan, Japan will not only lose the democratic alliance and lose its commercial ocean route to the Middle East, but potentially be the next aggression target of China.    

Former Japanese Prime Minister Abe launched the Quad (Japan, Australia, India, and the U.S) in 2004, and the Quad has quickly turned into a regional organization against China and to “advance a free and open Indo-Pacific” since 2017. The Chinese foreign minister named Wang Yi even called the Quad an “Indo-Pacific NATO”. On April 16, 2021, Former Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide visited the U.S. and published the U.S.- Japan Joint Leaders’ Statement with President Biden: “U.S. – JAPAN GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR A NEW ERA.” The statement said, "We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues” (White House,1).  In June, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi declared that the security of Taiwan was directly linked with that of Japan. On July 6th, 2021, Japan's deputy Prime Minister Kyodo said the country needed to defend Taiwan with the U.S. if the island is invaded. New Prime Minister Kishida has said that Japan’s “top priority” is countering Beijing, and he has pointed out that Taiwan is “the front line” in the clash between authoritarianism and democracy” (Liff). 

The U.S. and Japan have a military alliance because both states had signed the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty on June 23, 1960. According to this treaty, the U.S. military must defend Japan if Japan is attacked. Also, both states are members of the Quad which advances a free and open Indo-Pacific, so, the U.S. and Japan have the responsibility to unite to protect Taiwan. However, The U.S. has the disadvantage that its territory is far away from Taiwan, which is no benefit to rapid response for the first attack and to engage in a protracted war. But Japan can fix this disadvantage of the U.S. because Japan is the neighbor of Taiwan, thus, Japan can launch a rapid reaction and become a base for support of the long-term war (like Japan did in part during the Vietnam war). On the other hand, if the U.S directly fights with China, the probability of a nuclear war will be increased greatly. Fortunately, Japan is a non-nuclear weapon Country, so if Japan and China fought, we likely won’t need to worry about a nuclear war. So, this is a wise strategy for the U.S. to unite Japan to prevent the invasion of Taiwan by China.     

According to all the above, we can conclude that there is the strong possibility to the U.S. and Japan unite to defend Taiwan if China attacks Taiwan.  After the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 2022, General Secretary Xi will get the firm and unlimited dictatorship in China. So, most specialists think xi will launch an action for invading Taiwan at that time. Along with the escalation of tensions, Taiwan and its alliance’s opinions start to converge. It is a consensus to unite prevent invasion by the Chinese military. If Xi Jinping is not dissuaded but continues to move forward to execute his plan to reunify Taiwan by force, then Taiwan, the United States, and Japan will unite to resist the CCP’s aggression, to protect their long-term interests, order, and value in the region and the world.                                                  

                                                 Annotated Bibliography    

Ashford, Emma, and Matthew Kroenig. “Is Defending Taiwan Worth the Risk?” Foreign Policy, 8 Oct. 2021. 

Dreyer, June Teufel. “The Japan-Taiwan Relationship: An Unstable Stability.” Asia Policy, vol. 26, no. 1, National Bureau of Asian Research, 2019, pp. 161–66.   

Hickey, Dennis V. “Biden, Taiwan, and Strategic Ambiguity.” – The Diplomat, For the Diplomat, 26 Oct. 2021. 

Liff, Adam P. “Has Japan's Policy toward the Taiwan Strait Changed?” Brookings, Brookings, 23 Aug. 2021. 

Rigger, Shelley. “The Taiwan Relations Act: Past, Present, Future.” Asia Policy, vol. 26, no. 4, National Bureau of Asian Research, 2019, pp. 11–17.     

Tsai, Ing-Wen. “Taiwan and the Fight for Democracy.” Foreign Affairs, vol. 100, no. 6, 18 Oct. 2021, pp. 23 

White House. “Joint Statement by President Biden, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan-The Spirit of the Quad.”  Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents, Superintendent of Documents, 2021, pp. 1–2.    


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