With tensions between the US and China rising, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said Monday that if a Chinese invasion of Taiwan threatens the “survival” of Japan, Tokyo and Washington must intervene.
Japan’s post-World War II constitution only allows the country to deploy its armed forces if it comes under attack. In 2015, then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe amended Tokyo’s defense policy by adding a clause that allows Japan to defend its allies like the US in cases where Japan faces a “threat to its survival.”
“If a major incident happened [in Taiwan], it would not be strange at all if it touches on a situation threatening survival,” Aso said. “If that is the case, Japan and the US must defend Taiwan together.”
Japan has no formal relations with Taiwan but has been following Washington’s lead and is boosting ties with Taipei. In April, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Biden released a joint statement that called for “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
While the Suga-Biden statement might not seem like much, it was the first time the leaders of the US and Japan mentioned Taiwan in a joint statement since 1969. China slammed the statement and accused the US and Japan of “ganging up to form cliques and fanning bloc confrontation.”
The Biden administration views alliance building in Asia as vital to its anti-China policies, and Japan plays a role in this strategy. Japan is a member of the Quad, an informal grouping that also includes the US, India, and Australia, and is seen as a possible foundation for a NATO-style alliance in Asia.
The Biden administration has also committed to intervening if a maritime dispute between Japan and China in the East China Sea over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands turns violent. In one of his first phone calls as Pentagon chief, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reaffirmed that Article V of the US mutual defense treaty with Japan applies to the Senkakus.