Japan is in danger of creating the conditions for disorder in the Taiwan Straits
Former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso at the Ketagalan Forum in Taipei, Taiwan, China, August 8, 2023. /CFP
Former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso at the Ketagalan Forum in Taipei, Taiwan, China, August 8, 2023. /CFP

Former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso at the Ketagalan Forum in Taipei, Taiwan, China, August 8, 2023. /CFP

Editor's note: Keith Lamb, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is a University of Oxford graduate with a Master of Science in Contemporary Chinese Studies. His primary research interests are China's international relations and "socialism with Chinese characteristics." The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Former Japanese Prime Minister and Vice President of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Taro Aso, visiting China's Taiwan region, made comments, aimed at Beijing, that a tougher security situation in the Taiwan Straits means the U.S. and other like-minded countries need to show strong resolve to come to Taiwan's defense if it were attacked. Furthermore, he believes this resolve acts as "deterrence."

Firstly, as recognized by the UN, the U.S., and Japan, Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. Secondly, Beijing has no intention of sparking conflict, which is not in the interests of the Chinese citizens on either side of the Taiwan Straits, who share numerous people-to-people connections, strong family bonds, and complex intertwined business relations.

Beijing has been patiently remaining calm in the face of continuous agitation and prodding by outside powers. This prodding includes high-level U.S. and Japanese politicians traveling to Taipei and massive arms sales to the Taiwan region, which further undermines China's sovereignty and the one-China principle.

Beijing's plan for reunification respects the historical "quirks" that imperialism has inflicted on it and without foreign interference, as China's economy grows, its systematic advantages will become obvious, its soft power will increase, and peaceful reunification will be the inevitable conclusion to the Taiwan saga.

Threatening to derail this peace is foreign interference underlined by Aso's comments, which could invigorate Taiwan's independence forces to declare independence or encourage Taipei into an outside military alliance in an effort to split China. Beijing, despite its saintly patience, could not and would not tolerate any such humiliation and injustice on its sovereign territory – it would be forced to act.

Consequently, Aso's actions, such as being the most senior Japanese political official in LDP to visit the Taiwan region since 1972 and his warring comments, are an external interference in China's internal affairs, which only disturb the security situation in the Taiwan Straits and could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy of conflict. He and his like-minded syndicate, who are undoubtedly outside states with no business treating Asia as their dominion, let alone China, are the problem – not the solution.

A night view of Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan, China, June 21, 2021. /CFP
A night view of Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan, China, June 21, 2021. /CFP

A night view of Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan, China, June 21, 2021. /CFP

Aso talked about "upholding the international order" but the very basis of the international order is state sovereignty, which Aso is not respecting. His remarks on the Taiwan region should not only alarm China but all countries who respect their sovereign independence, which is a foundation for a democratic world order.

In 2021, when Aso was Japan's deputy prime minister, he called an "invasion" of the Taiwan region by Beijing a "threat to Japan's survival" but considering this would not be an invasion and conflict is the last action Beijing would take. Aso's concerns, I suspect, are that even peaceful reunification will be a threat to Japan by taking away geopolitical space for Japan to act, which represents an overstretched concept of security where others must be repressed and divided – one that the U.S. is adept at using.

For Japan hosting numerous U.S. military bases directed against China, the line between allies and occupiers as well as independent and captured foreign policy is thin. However, Japan must use logic and the guide of history to understand its relationship with China not patterns enforced on it by an outside power or projections of its own history.

History proves that China is not an aggressor and its rise has been peaceful and beneficial for Asia and the world, which contrasts markedly with Japan's rise and its like-minded partners. Any concern that China's reunification threatens Japan is ludicrous, especially when reunification is the solution for long-term peace in East Asia and the Taiwan Straits.

Indeed, Asia must be wary of a Japan which uses the moral high ground language of defense and maintaining the international order as Japan's invasion of China in 1931 was justified in the name of self-defense and for maintaining order and stability. When it comes to the Taiwan region, as China's Foreign Ministry noted, for half a century, Japan exercised colonial rule over it and brutally suppressed its people's resistance, while committing atrocious crimes. It is these historical crimes committed against China that Japan must draw lessons from and act prudently to maintain real peace and stability in East Asia, which can only come by respecting China's sovereignty.

Times have changed and we are now entering a multi-polar word order. Japan must respect this tide of change and take appropriate measures backed by appropriate language if it wishes not to revert to former tragedies and instead seeks stability for Japan, Asia, and the world.

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