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China might provoke Taiwan to divert attention from woes: expert

  • August 20, 2019
  • , Kyodo News , 11:14 p.m.
  • English Press
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TAIPEI — A declining economy along with a continued U.S.-China trade war and tech battle might increase the possibility of China provoking Taiwan militarily to divert its own people’s attention, a Japanese expert said in Taipei on Tuesday.


Bonji Ohara, a senior fellow of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, said the economic pressure the United States exerts on China is undermining China’s economy.


“If China’s economy worsens further and society destabilizes, the Communist Party of China will have to rely on nationalism,” Ohara said in English, adding that the Taiwan Strait will be the most dangerous area if military tensions in the West Pacific increase.


To avoid “contingency situations” in the Taiwan Strait, he said, it is important that Japan and the United States not remain silent in the event of a minor military clash between China and Taiwan, otherwise Beijing might accelerate its provocations.


The former Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force officer made the remarks during a panel discussion at this year’s Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue in Taipei.

Ohara said as the Taiwan issue concerns the legitimacy of the CPC’s one-party rule, Chinese President Xi Jinping “cannot prevent PLA (People’s Liberation Army) from taking provocative actions against Taiwan easily.”


As 90 percent of Japan’s energy resources pass through the Taiwan Strait or Bashi Channel, rising military tensions between China and Taiwan would have a significant impact on Japan’s economy, he said.


Ohara proposed that Japan, the United States, Australia and other countries come to a consensus and map out concrete operational plans in response to possible military clashes in the Taiwan Strait so “China does not escalate military provocation under misperceptions.”


Another panelist, Paul Dibb, emeritus professor at the Australian National University’s Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, said resorting to a serious external crisis over Taiwan would serve to divert the attention of the Chinese people to a major issue of national pride.


It is important that the United States has support from its most important allies in the region, namely Japan and Australia, in the event of war across the Taiwan Strait, Dibb said.


Japan might well consider making a significant military contribution because of its close relations with Taiwan and the fact that a China-occupied Taiwan would massively complicate Japan’s own defense problems, he said.


“Possession of Taiwan would give Beijing a forward military presence to threaten the Ryukyu Islands, Okinawa and Japan itself, as well as providing a deep-water bastion off Taiwan’s east coast for China’s SSBNs,” he said, referring to China’s nuclear-powered, ballistic missile-carrying submarines.


For Australia, Dibb said, Taiwan undoubtedly comes within the scope of the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty, which calls on the parties to consult together whenever the security of any of them is threatened in the Pacific.


It is in Australia’s vital interests to stand up for the defense of Taiwan, he said, as it is a successful democracy.

“If Taiwan is not worth defending, why would anyone come to Australia’s defense?” he asked.

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