Country Report: Japan (September 2022)


The late summer of 2022 saw responses to multiple bilateral relationships in Japan. At the forefront was the Japan-China nexus, commemorating fifty years since normalization in September. Not far behind was the nexus of China and the United States, having passed earlier in 2022 its fiftieth anniversary since a celebrated breakthrough. Also followed closely were Sino-ROK relations, which in August marked thirty years since normalization. The only other bilateral ties meriting close attention were those involving Russia, whether with Japan, China, or the United States. All of these foci underscored the polarization of international relations observed in Japan in 2022 far more than in earlier years.

Japanese after the onset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine were preoccupied with three things: (1) proving that they are on board with support for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia, thereby strengthening the alliance with the United States and broadening cooperation on security, including economic security, with other US allies; (2) persuading countries that today’s war against Ukraine could be the prelude to tomorrow’s coercion by China against Taiwan; and (3) forging a wider-ranging, multilateral framework for resisting China and Russia, including NATO and sensitive to the ongoing challenge of working with India and ASEAN. While coordinating very closely with Washington, Tokyo claimed a unique role.

United Nations

Sankei on September 20 explained that Kishida at the UN had made clear his thinking in opposing China and Russia. He stressed Japan’s support for freedom, democracy, and the rule of law and called for the restoration of the international order shaken by Russia and China. The paper called for clarity that “Ukraine is tomorrow’s East Asia” and sharing consciousness of the threats ahead with international society, particularly China’s hegemonic behavior. It is advancing in the southern Pacific and the Indian Ocean and has the ambition to annex Taiwan, seen in August in its response to the Pelosi visit there. Kishida should call out to the world to prepare for China’s rising military threat. In advance, Japan itself should boost its defense capabilities and the deterrence force of the Japan-US alliance, striving for understanding from other countries through Kishida’s speech. The article groups China, Russia, and North Korea as “lawless states” drawing more closely together. It concludes that from 2023 Japan will start a two-year term on the Security Council, carrying these themes forward, and Kishida at the General Assembly strove for reform of that body.

In Yomiuri on July 27 Kaneharu Nobukatsu and Matsuda Kuninori linked the Ukraine war, the Taiwan danger, and the futility of the Security Council. They called for increased Japanese resilience not to forget Ukraine and to draw lessons. In order to respond on the Taiwan issue, it is needed to broaden the Asia-Pacific liberal society while forging consciousness toward heightened change in the current situation. While an adjacent article calls for reform of the Security Council, citing Kitaoka Shinichi’s proposal for a new status of alternate member able to serve longer than two years at a time but lacking veto power. Kaneharu sees this as unrealistic, recalling Japan’s 1990s effort to become a permanent member, opposed by Italy, Mexico, South Korea, and others.

Yomiuri on August 17 compared the 2020s with the 1930s, suggesting that the retreat from globalization based on “free trade” could revive bloc economies, which led some countries, including Japan with no bloc under its control, to military adventurism. Today, Russian trade with much of the world is falling fast as trust in globalization is declining. The US has proposed IPEF, and China is pressuring states on trade too. Discussions should now proceed on finding the right balance between benefits from globalization and economic security. 

Japan-South Korea Relations

Asahi editorialized on September 23 that the Kishida-Yoon meeting at the UN General Assembly was the first step to relations returning to normalization. It had been three years since leaders had met. The Japanese government refused to call the session “talks,” referring to it as an “informal chat.” South Korea named the session “talks.” To the degree Seoul does not adopt a policy to avoid impending crisis, Japan is unwilling to recognizing that talks are taking place. LDP conservative factions remain harshly critical of South Korea. On the same day Mainichi editorialized that Yoon in his August 15 speech had asserted that neighbors should cooperate and that both should strive to avoid Japanese companies selling their capital. Also blaming conservatives in the LDP for refusing talks until the issue is resolved, it regrets the outcome, saying that the foundation of diplomacy is stabilized relations with neighboring countries. Given Russia’s war, the Sino-US confrontation, and accelerating North Korean threats, this is even more true. The paper calls for Tokyo to shift course to Seoul.

China-South Korea Relations

On August 25 Yomiuri focused on military and economic frictions between China and South Korea on the 30th anniversary of normalization, which both sides celebrated with ceremonies. Sanctions over THAAD continue, as the Lotte group keeps having its supermarkets and department stores closed for violations of such things as fire laws. In Sichuan the last of its department stores will close by year end. China takes Moon’s “three no’s” of 2017 as state-to-state policy, while Yoon treats it as one leader’s approach now to be changed. Koreans in their 20s and 30s have particularly soured on China, holding more positive feelings toward Japan and even North Korea. Structural change is under way: Korean televisions, smart phones, and automobiles are losing their competitiveness in China’s market. Stress is put on Yoon putting fresh emphasis on the United States, not China.

Another Yomiuri article on August 25 referred to unavoidable tensions in a relationship once regarded as a honeymoon, when China was looking for investments and South Korea for markets as well as the isolation of North Korea. In the first half of the 2010s, Seoul leaned to China to resolve the nuclear and missile threats from the North. Yoon, in contrast, stresses universal values and diplomacy and security linked to the US and Japan. The real cause is that China has changed, interfering in South Korean diplomatic and security policies and vetoing a resolution on the North. The article adds that China continues to threaten regional security, pointing to Taiwan and the Senkaku vicinity. At the August 9 foreign ministers’ meeting China sought to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington. It has been limiting the operations of South Korean firms in China, there is a boycott movement against Korean goods, and there is thinking about curtailing exchanges. Seoul stands at a crossroads on semiconductors, as the US seeks to add it to the network with Japan and Taiwan. The article ends by calling on Japan and the US to intensify support so that South Korea does not bend before China’s unjust pressure as well as strengthen ties to it.

On September 2 Yomiuri commented on South Korean-Chinese relations. Seoul, which has relied on the US for security and conducted a balanced policy of depending on China’s economy, has aroused China by tightening ties with the US. With the 30th anniversary of normalization on August 24, the Yoon-Biden connection has created a new situation. This came about because China shifted from an economic focus to intervention in the ROK’s security with the THAAD pressure and sanctions. After the Moon era, Yoon responded by broadening US ties to a comprehensive security alliance, drawing a line with China and seeking to forge equal relations with it. When in the spring China joined Russia in opposing tightening sanctions at the Security Council, Yoon had added reason to reconsider ties to China. In August a foreign ministers meeting of South Korea and China showed that the THAAD issue is explosive. Finally, the Chip-4 issue has arisen, as economic security has risen to the forefront with semiconductors central. Yet, 60% of the semiconductor exports go to China and Hong Kong, with Samsung and SK Hynix huge suppliers to the world. Since Biden’s May visit to Seoul, the US has sought ROK participation in what is called the Chip-4 group with Japan and Taiwan. The two big Korean producers are investing in US plants, and their production in China is not of the most advanced chips. The article ends with a warning that China is threatening to apply pressure on South Korea by limiting trade in other items.  

China-Russia Relations

Yomiuri on July 24 stressed the deepening division in the world, not only the US and Europe versus Russia. The result is Russia appealing to the BRICS to strengthen ties; so it will not be isolated in international society. China does not want Russia to totally collapse. According to Tsuruoka Michito, the division for Russia is playing out in semi-conductors, natural gas, and arms. Some countries do not agree with containment of Russia, waffle in criticizing it, and strive to ally with China, he warns, leaving unclear if they can supply such items.

Escalations occurred in China’s outward expansion, as in 2012 toward the Senkakus. Military alignment with Russia became a goal. In 2022 China has prepared for contingencies in May with exercises near Japan and in August with a show of force near Taiwan. Likely to face the US and Japan over Taiwan, it is stressing alignment with Russia after first conducting joint exercises near Japan in 2019. Kishida is now emphasizing counterstrike capabilities to strike enemy launch sites and strengthening the Japan-US alliance for deterrence.

Japan-China Relations

On September 15 Yomiuri reflected on the 50th anniversary of Japan-China normalization with a focus on security after on August 18 reflecting on politics and on August 30 on economics, each in a full-page spread. It reviewed three periods, 1972-96, 1996-2012, and 2012 to the present. An overall heading depicted the militarization of China as a threat, and a graph showed China’s military budget surpassing Japan’s in 2006 and skyrocketing as Japan’s rose little by 2011 and stalled thereafter. Although in 1972 China was already a nuclear state, it trailed behind Japan in military modernization. Two wars shocked Chinese leaders into taking military modernization seriously: China’s losses in the 1979 war with Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War US success. Another awakening occurred in the 1995-96 Taiwan Strait showdown, where China lost face when it could not prevent US aircraft carriers from showing their presence. With the 1997 defense guidelines, Japan demonstrated that it stood behind the US in the Taiwan Strait. A rising defense budget boosted China’s expenses to five times Japan’s by 2022. Awakening to the threat, Japan in 2010 refocused on boosting military power toward the islands in the southwest. Xi Jinping’s stress on a strong military and unification with Taiwan is raising alarm.

The 50th anniversary of Japan-China normalization on September 29 drew retrospectives, as in Yomiuri on August 18 reflecting on political leadership. It started with Tanaka Kakuei with Zhou Enlai, proceeded to Nakasone Yasuhiro and Hu Yaobang, and ended with Abe Shinzo and Xi Jinping. In the case of Nakasone, Takahara Akio is cited as thinking that he did not expect the strong reaction in China to his August 15, 1985 visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which played a role in Hu’s ouster by conservatives in January 1986, a factor leading to the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. As for Abe, the article highlights the June 2019 summit, when Xi was conciliatory, Abe spoke of a 2020 “cherry blossom” summit when relations would be raised to the next level, and Xi agreed. At Abe’s death in July 2022, Xi sent condolences and praised Abe for his contributions to improve relations.

On August 30 Yomiuri carried the second part of its retrospective on the 50th anniversary, centering on economic relations. It focuses on the power of economics in bilateral relations, dating back to Mao Zedong. In 1972, Keidanren strongly pressured Tanaka Kakuei to normalize relations. At later dates when relations were troubled, as in 1989 and 2012, delegations went to China to pave the way to better political ties after making the case for economics. China’s objective was to use these linkages to steer political improvements. From Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s to Hu Jintao in 2008, top leaders met with Japan’s economic delegations. Then, it stopped. China no longer felt the need for Japan’s economic strength. In Japan Keidanren, as a grouping of big companies, lost political influence. The role of economic diplomacy has been reconsidered. Amid the “new cold war” of the US and China, Beijing has reconsidered economic security and tightly controlled the activities of firms. There has been a notable departure from China (“datsu Chugoku”) in investments and supply chains, including by Japan. There is no expectation of a return to “keinetsu” or economic fever.

In Toa, September 2022, an article discussed a change in popular attitudes of Chinese toward Japan, arguing that the gap with leadership views has widened. It counted 1500 Japanese restaurants in Beijing, including some noted brands unlike the limited ramen places of a decade earlier. In bookstores, translations from Japanese are surprisingly numerous, from novels to gardening and interior design. In 2008, 1 million Chinese visited Japan; in 2019 the number was 9.5 million, before the pandemic closures. Curiosity in Japan is great, and lots of visitors have a good impression. Young people, many of whom follow anime and manga, often say history is just a matter of the past, unlike the government. When after Abe’s death there were some comments on the Net taking pleasure, the article does not think they are the mainstream. The leadership, however, brings up history, nationalism, and territory, deeming this a stage of adversarial relations. It links resolution of the Taiwan and Senkaku issues. Xi Jinping is the one who changed the Deng Xiaoping position to put off these issues, making them core interests. If China criticized Japan for calling a Taiwan contingency a Japan contingency, that is how Xi sees it too. When Pelosi visited Taiwan in August, the fact that China fired missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone fits this logic. On the eve of the 50th anniversary, it does not feel as if the Chinese government’s mood toward Japan is friendly. After the invasion of Ukraine, Japanese interest has risen in a Taiwan contingency. Yet, the article makes clear that Chinese young people think quite differently about Japan.

On September 29, the 50th anniversary date, editorials looked back at the relationship. In Yomiuri people were reminded that Japan and China are still important neighbors despite relations growing more tense. It called for a return to the time of normalization in boosting peaceful, friendly relations. Although some civic organizations are recognizing the anniversary in Tokyo, nothing formal is occurring between the world’s second and third great powers. Strong economic ties endure, and they cooperate on infrastructure in developing states even as Japan urges healthy investments, not what China has done in BRI in encouraging excessive debt. Interfering with improved relations are China’s use of economic power to boost military power and aggressive maritime moves. In Japan public opinion toward China has severely worsened; good feelings fell from 62% in 1978 to 21% in 2021, as 81% consider China a security threat. Missiles in August into Japan’s exclusive economic zone did not help. Failing to directly criticize Russia for invading Ukraine, China is actually approving it. Leaders of Japan and China should meet soon. Along with dialogue, it is important for Japan to strengthen its defense forces given China’s continued military build-up. A hot line is urgent to prevent accidental clashes. Kishida must pursue closer alliance ties with the US and seek ways to narrow the distance from China. Cooperation is possible, leading to a system of peace and security linking Asian and European countries.

In Asahi the editorial thrust was to begin a new dialogue aimed at peace, not to get China to go back to the 1970s’ original approach, asking how Japan should face a huge neighbor. It acknowledged that China has become expansionist, but it recognizes a strong tendency among young generations to improve ties. Ties between countries are not only between governments, trade and culture need to be considered and offer a strong foundation. If multi-dimensional areas of friendship are extended, this would be big for security. Japan must continue to call out China on human rights, but it can pursue better ties also. Even as Japan maintains close ties with the US, it should develop closer ties in Asia. It can pursue an autonomous approach in the US and China struggle, seeking a free and open Indo-Pacific. It Is worrisome that the pipes between Japan and China have shrunk. An early Kishida-Xi summit must be realized, Asahi adds.

A Mainichi opinion piece calls for efforts to forge a new “coexistence.” It acknowledges that there is no celebratory mood on the 50th anniversary. The Ukraine war has widened the gap between Japan-US-Europe and China. Economic security is a new issue, leading to more difficulty in separating economics from politics. Distrust has grown that different political systems can find mutual benefit. Japan should have a diplomatic strategy to link East and West. It should join with other countries sandwiched between great power rivals and devise policies to avoid conflict, including broadening civil exchanges.

Sankei editorialized for fundamentally rethinking relations from a security point of view, including economic ties and academic exchanges. The cause of the downward spiral in relations is put squarely on China’s hegemonic behavior. Now China must be deterred in all spheres in order to maintain peace in the Indo-Pacific region. Japan contributed a lot to China’s economic development, but it was used to make the country stronger and threaten Japan, Taiwan, and international society. Japan tolerated China’s failure to communicate Japan’s cooperation to its people. After 1989 Japan was first to renew economic assistance and help China escape isolation. Accepting China into the WTO, it and others watched it abuse free trade. Trump shifted the US approach from Nixon’s time, and Bident continued this change. In December 2021 Japan altered its policy to deter China in order to maintain peace. New awareness is needed on such subject as China fusing military and civilian aims in exchanges.

Toa in August examined ten years of Xi Jinping. Okamoto Takashi pointed to Wen Jiabao’s warning a decade ago that China was at a historical crossroads and argued that it took a path common to a dynastic cycle by concentrating control, including over the economy, rather than reforming to open up the system. Yamaguchi Shinji followed with an assessment of China’s foreign policy turn under Xi, recognizing it as huge but also seeing continuities in neighboring area policy with late Hu Jintao and in securitization, wolf warrior tendencies, and centralization with Mao Zedong. Despite lots of failures, there is no mechanism for reconsideration. China has assumed a huge power shift from 2008-09, and it calculated that the US will to intervene militarily had diminished greatly, leading in 2013 to more assertive Chinese moves in the region. In 2016 it calculated that political will in the West had faded, making decisions harder and giving the world a once-in-a-hundred-year transformation. Finally, the pandemic in 2020 led China to assume that change was accelerating, as US hegemony was ending. Xi broadened the range of national security, depicting the US as the main threat in each sphere and boosting the place of ideological security. In contrast to Hu Jintao’s quest for soft power to assuage concern that China is a threat, Xi pushed for a loud voice against the ideological hegemony of the West, strengthening propaganda veering into wolf warrior attacks. Top-down decisions were enhanced by reorganization to more formal mechanisms. Failing to get Obama to accept a delineation based on mutual recognition of core interests, such as Taiwan, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea, Xi tried again in 2017-18 through a reset with Trump. Yet bilateral relations worsened by 2019 with a trade war, a battle for technological hegemony, and an ideological clash in 2000 the pandemic led China to intensify criticism of the US, worsened by wolf warrior accusations. The result has been increased alarm about a threat and balancing against China. Implied is that Xi has left China in a bad position.

Japan-Russia Relations

On July 27 Yomiuri carried an article on broadening unity against Russia, drawing on Hyodo Shinji in a discussion of Japan’s role in the revitalization of Ukraine, as Japan had done after WWII and after disasters. This discussion five months after the start of the war recalled the speech Zelensky made to the Diet months earlier referring to Japan’s recovery. A conference on Afghanistan’s recovery was held in Japan, and it was suggested that around the time of the May 2023 Hiroshima G7 summit, a conference be convened. After all, Hiroshima is a symbol of such revival. Hyodo explained that major countries must discuss the security future of Ukraine, and Japan should not limit itself to restoration assistance. Moreover, it was suggested that Japan coordinate its role with South Korea, Australia, ASEAN, and others. As for the war, sanctions are viewed as gradually having an effect, leading oligarchs to raise doubts about the war. Japan too, the article concludes, should lean into the sanctions and aid to Ukraine, strengthening pressure on Russia to get it to end the war.

On September 5 Sankei wrote about Japan’s energy ties to Sakhalin-2 and “leaving Russia” (“datsu Rosiya”). Japan had sought to preserve LNG imports, but it is not sure that will happen, i.e., that Russia will recognize Japan’s rights after shifting management to a new company. There are lots of problems in depending on Russia for natural resources. Japan must leave Russia for energy security. Now it gets 9% of its LNG there. Shell has chosen to withdraw from Sakhalin-2, and the G7 has agreed that there will be no new investment in Russia. It will be difficult to find new sellers. The EU has decided to end dependence on Russian gas by 2027. Japan should at an early date make that decision too.

In Gaiko July-August, Koizumi Yu analyzed Russian military thought prior to the Ukraine war and over its first months. He explained why Russia proceeded as it did in Ukraine in terms of this thinking. In the post-Cold War period, three schools of military strategy contended, he says: the dominant traditional school, which saw NATO and China as hypothetical enemies and anticipated a large-scale fight with a war of attrition for which a large force and conscription were necessary; the revolutionary school, who stressed a shift to new types of high-tech warfare but agreed with the first group on preparing for a large-scale war; and the modern school focusing on soft threats, who called for abolishing conscription and reducing the size of the military. As Russo-US relations deteriorated, the shift from the traditionalists to the modernists was reversed. Choosing a hybrid war in Crimea, Russia resumed large-scale exercises. In the Ukraine war, Plan A was not the traditionalist way. As in invasions of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, decapitation was the aim, taking the capital and arresting the leadership. When this failed, Plan B was large army assaults and punishing missile launches to weaken the will of the people, but that too failed. From April Russia had turned to Plan C, concentrating forces in the east to wear down Ukraine’s military strength in a very traditional war of attrition with the possibility of escalation. The lesson for Japan is that possible war with China or Russia would be one of attrition, where numbers are important. Could Japan sustain the war with fuel and arms as well as troops? US force involvement could be limited with these powers; so Japan must consider the ability of its own forces to keep fighting.

Indo-Pacific Region

In the same issue of Gaiko, Yakushiji Katsuyuki called for “soft multilateralism in the Indo-Pacific” not solely reliant on the Japan-US alliance. After three, traditional LDP hardliners—Mori, Koizumi, and Abe—over most of the past two decades, he sees Kishida coming from the dover side, but he acknowledges that the dividing line has changed in today’s world. Yet, he points to the weakening of the US presence as relativizing the Japan-US alliance and opening the way for a creative approach by Kishida. Although he briefly mentions US leadership in response to the Ukraine war, he finds the US approach to values losing appeal outside of the G7, which has already paved the way for Japan to show leadership as it has been ending the era of only relying on the alliance through FOIP, the Quad, IPEF, NATO summit participation, and expectations for closer ties to South Korea. In IPEF, Japan was persuasive with the US, delinking it from values, convincing it to include all of ASEAN except Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. Japan only was successful when Biden visited in May and put democracy aside by affirming the unity and centrality of ASEAN. Another Japanese success occurred in late June at NATO, which for the first time called out China’s challenge and recognized the direct influence on Europe and the Atlantic of the situation in the Indo-Pacific region. The major states of Europe have dramatically altered their consciousness of China. Now Japan combines bilateral and multilateral security cooperation. So far, only Australia joins the US in the closest security ties to Japan, but deterrence is leading to new soft multilateralism, which is needed since many states are hesitant to oppose China directly. Kishida’s “realism diplomacy for a new age” is still not concrete, but after the July Upper House elections he is looking ahead to “three golden years.” Yakushiji warns that LDP hawks are seeking to put at the center increasing the military budget and the capability to strike enemy areas, and he is unsure of the timing for Kishida to put his own stamp on foreign policy. He talks of Japan’s own self-interest, but he says nothing about the threats now facing Japan and minimizes the leadership of the US through 2022.

The following Gaiko article by Ito Toru, Satake Tomohiko, and Mori Satoru explored Japan’s broadening multilateral diplomacy through the G7 and the Quad after their meetings in May and June. It calls these big diplomatic events for Japan in defense of the rules-based order it has enjoyed since WWII. If the postwar order in Europe collapses, it will reverberate in the Indo-Pacific. As Kishida said, today’s Ukraine may be tomorrow’s East Asia. Japan and Australia have accepted the Western-led order, more positively than NATO members in assisting Ukraine. The G7 has become the core of the sanctions on Russia. If the main G7 theme now is the Ukraine situation, the main theme in the shadows is China. The G7 took a strong stand on that, and next year’s Hiroshima G7 summit must raise that alarm further. The G7’s democracy declaration had an impact on India, whose domestic conditions have been criticized in the US Congress. Why then did Modi sign onto this declaration? Perhaps, it was US and Japanese persuasion, readers are told. Earlier the world strove to avoid bifurcation into democracies and autocracies, but the US insisted with widespread support at home. On May 24 when the Quad met, India alone disagreed on Ukraine. Given the US focus on China too, it does not want to alienate India. Mention is made of the insufficiency of US attention to Southeast Asia, despite its salience in a conflict with China. Through the Quad, however, states with more cooperation can shape a collective approach. The article says that Japan’s role should be to avoid polarization of international society. Traditionally, Japan has listened to developing countries in Asia. It is correct to be part of the Western core, but the sentiments of the people are not with full-scale values stress. Japan should keep to its traditional wariness of values diplomacy, readers are told. Next year it will host the G7 and India the G20. Japan should invite India and seek to shape its response in a process that champions a rules-based order. Implied is an autonomous role for Japan without distancing itself from the United States, whether in India or ASEAN.


The September issue of Toa centered on the “power game” in the Taiwan Strait. One article by Iida Masafumi asked what the influence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is on China’s Taiwan policy. Looking at the substantial damage inflicted on Russia’s economy, China with its preoccupation with stable economic development has to consider steps it should take. First, it can further deepen economic ties with other countries so that they would waver on sanctions, fearing great damage to their own economies. This could be done by further opening its economy and boosting BRI. Second, it could stimulate structural change to boost the role of internal demand in economic growth. Third, it could become more self-sufficient in high-tech areas and rely on the state sector. If a large-scale attack is launched such as Russia’s on Ukraine, China can expect similar massive criticism. Yet, it is working to prepare countries not to vote at the UN against any move on Taiwan. It is also narrowing the space for Taiwan in international society. Many see commonalities between Russia’s case for attacking Ukraine and China’s on Taiwan, uniting people who were once together and share many attributes of ethnicity. Voices are heard saying “today’s Ukraine is tomorrow’s Taiwan.” China claims the two cases are completely different, accepting that Ukraine is a sovereign country while the world does not see Taiwan as such. There are also military lessons China can draw. One is to quickly seize the entire island and prevent military resistance. A second lesson is to prevent US forces from intervening and offering support. Looking at the Russian army, China must reconsider the risks and difficulties of a Taiwan operation. Doing so, it is making the situation more and more severe.

In the September Toa there was also an article on Japan-Taiwan relations after Abe’s death. Calling Abe Taiwan’s most important friend, it noted that Taiwan’s vice-president visited Japan in a personal capacity on July 12, shortly after Abe’s death, drawing China’s criticism. The 2012 nationalization of the Senkaku Islands angered Taiwan as well as the PRC, but Abe, shortly after returning to the prime ministership, reached a fishing agreement with Taiwan, clearing away the most serious problem after persuading Okinawan fishermen. From 2014 Abe concentrated on improving relations with China while relations with the Ma Ying-jeou government were troubled by a ban on foodstuff imports from the Fukushima area. When Tsai Ying-wen replaced Ma in 2016, Abe remained focused on the PRC, yet Abe enjoyed a very positive image among Taiwanese. His messages after earthquakes and after China boycotted Taiwan pineapples struck a chord. In an online exchange with Tsai in March 2022 Abe expressed support for Taiwan to enter CPTPP, and he said “a Taiwan contingency is a Japan contingency.” The article explains grief seen in Taiwan over his death.

An article In the September Toa discussed Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and China’s large-scale exercises, ending with a section on Japan-Taiwan relations. On July 22 a new defense white paper came out, doubling the number of pages on the Taiwan situation, describing the process of an attack on the island: forces gather for a “drill”; the public in Taiwan panics; foreign forces are prohibited access; the drill turns into an attack, using missiles hitting major military facilities and cyberattacks; with sea and air superiority achieved, landings take place. Also mentioned is the visit of a Japanese Diet group from July 27, exchanging views on security. One member, Hamada Yasukazu, was appointed defense secretary just after his return in a cabinet shuffle. Taiwan is Japan’s maritime lifeline with great strategic importance, readers are told, but it notes avoidance of the subject what Japan would do in case of a “Taiwan contingency.” However, the timing was fortuitous for a visit of the incoming defense chief at the time of Pelosi’s visit and China’s large-scale exercises.

On August 4 Yomiuri covered Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan and the very high level of Chinese pressure applied to Taiwan, leading to another opportunity for Japan to consider how to deal with China’s military challenge. The US government while strengthening cooperation versus China in the Quad framework and elsewhere has tosses a strong ball at China, but it is really China that poses the military challenge to Taiwan. Human rights diplomacy is Pelosi’s life work, wrote Masuda Masayuki. International society has recognized that the same thing could happen to Taiwan as happened to Ukraine. China’s military exercises are near Japan. Abe made clear that a “Taiwan contingency” is a “Japan contingency.” Japan and the US with Australia must strengthen deterrence against the forcible unification of Taiwan with China in order to have a stable security environment, Yomiuri explained.

Defense of Japan

On August 9 Yomiuri reported on the new book of Kokubun Ryosei, president of the National Defense University until recently. Acknowledging that some of its students enter for economic reasons, he affirmed that after four years and a strict routine, rising at 6:00, living eight to a room, and drilling 1005 hours, they take pride in defending their country. As shown in Ukraine, one must not count on others to do protect one’s country, Defense first demands such a spirit.


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