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Commentary: “2 plus 2” takes one step further to Taiwan issue

By Professor Tetsuo Kotani of Meikai University


The fact that the four ministers expressed their concern by naming China caught my attention. The sentence, “We stressed the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait” is, in particular, a short but very meaningful sentence. In the past, the U.S. had stated that it will “encourage a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue through dialogue,” but the new wording could be interpreted to mean that Japan and the U.S. will consider a joint response.


Japan was able to reaffirm the application of Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty to the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture and share its concerns about China’s Coast Guard Law with the U.S. It can be said that Japan was able to provide its views of the issues to the Biden administration, which is reviewing its security strategy toward China and North Korea.


Following the latest online summit of the U.S., Japan, Australia and India, the U.S. secretaries of state and defense visited Japan on their first foreign trip. In April, the U.S. will host Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as the first foreign head of state since the inauguration of the Biden administration. It is clear that the U.S. is emphasizing the Indo-Pacific region and confronting China.


A meeting between top U.S. and Chinese diplomatic officials will be held in Alaska on March 18. This will take place directly after Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts by having his Chinese counterpart visit Alaska. This arrangement seems indicative of the Biden administration’s tough stance toward China.  


Now it is Japan’s turn to explain how it will deal with China. China’s capabilities and actions have changed dramatically since Japan formulated its National Security Strategy in 2013. It is necessary to revise the strategy as soon as possible and present to the U.S. a new strategy for China that includes economic security and human rights issues. As the year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the Japan-China Joint Communique, Beijing is expected to try to approach Tokyo and undermine the Japan-U.S. alliance. Japan should develop a strategy for dealing with China, and then Tokyo should firmly align its policies with Washington in preparation for another 2+2 meeting to be held before the end of this year.

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