Japan is spending more and more money on defense – and is allying itself with other countries against China. Tokyo – In Beijing, the view of things is clear: the island of Taiwan, located south of mainland China, belongs to China. The opponents of the communists, who won the civil war in 1949, have been occupying a country that does not belong to them with an illegitimate government for a good 70 years. China’s head of state, Xi Jinping, has recently repeatedly indicated that Beijing will sooner or later rule what is now democratic Taiwan again. What sounds like invasion plans is being treated with remarkably little attention by the international community. The huge Chinese market is too important for most countries in the world to be able to give decisive support to the much less powerful Taiwan government on this issue, which is important for Beijing. The states of the EU have also not maintained official diplomatic relations with Taiwan for a long time – otherwise Beijing would be furious.
China is by far Japan’s most important trading partner
So far, neighboring Japan has behaved in a similar way to the EU. China is by far Japan’s most important trading partner, and there is only one Japanese embassy in Beijing, not in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei. In recent months, however, Tokyo’s previously cautious attitude has changed. In July of last year, then Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso announced that Japan would stand by Taiwan militarily in the event of a conflict. Ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also hinted at this in December. “Self-defense forces”: According to the constitution, Japan is not allowed to go to war. © AFP This is now much more than rhetoric. Late last week, Japan and the US agreed in a ministerial meeting to take strong action against China’s “destabilizing activities” that are “undermining the rules-based order”. In particular, the government officials stressed “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” according to a joint statement on Friday. At the end of December, the two countries had already drawn up plans for military action in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
Japan wants to contain China’s sphere of influence
From the Japanese archipelago of Nansei near Taiwan, US troops would prepare for attacks. Logistical and financial support would come from Japan. Last week, the two states signed that Tokyo will pay 1.05 trillion yen (about $9 billion) for US troop presence over the next five years from April. In addition, Japan, which according to its pacifist post-war constitution is not formally allowed to wage war, has been increasing its own defense budget for years. At the end of last year, the government approved the eighth record budget for the Ministry of Defense in a row. In addition to increasing aggression from Beijing — from patrolling ships around the Chinese-claimed but Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands to warplanes over Taiwan — Japan expects increased security from the unpredictable regime in North Korea. Above all, however, Tokyo is concerned with curbing the growing sphere of influence of China, which replaced Japan in 2010 as the second largest economy in the world and continues to grow every year, both economically and militarily. In Japan, which ruled large parts of China and Taiwan as a colonial power until the end of the Second World War, It is no longer just historical revisionist nationalists who are concerned about China’s increasing regional influence. Beijing’s government is vehemently waging territorial conflicts with various states in the Pacific region. This often involves access to sea routes and raw materials. With the New Silk Road project, China is also planning to expand its own sphere of influence through infrastructure projects and trade routes.
Japan is at the dawn of a new era in its dealings with China
Japan counters with increasing strength and strategy. Also last week, the government in Tokyo around Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed on a defense alliance with Australia, which in turn has various conflicts with China over trade policy and human rights. Together with India and the USA, Japan and Australia also form the Quad Group, which has been meeting since 2007 and sees itself as a strategic alliance of democratic states in the Pacific – as an obvious reaction to China’s expansion. For Japan, which also joined France and Germany last year in the has intensified the forging of military partnerships, the beginning of a new era is also in the offing. Gone seems to be the time when people invoked the pacifism anchored in the constitution since the end of the Second World War and when diplomacy was always primarily a foreign trade policy. This is particularly evident in dealings with China: If the government in Tokyo were only concerned with the flow of money and goods, it would prefer to remain silent, especially on the sensitive issue of Taiwan. (Felix Lill) List of rubrics: © AFP
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