Tokyo, March 30 (Jiji Press)–Japan is preparing for the increasingly likely possibility of its becoming involved in regional security activities around Taiwan, as the U.S. government shows growing concerns over a potential Chinese invasion of the island.
The Japanese and U.S. governments stressed “the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait” in the “two-plus-two” meeting of their foreign and defense ministers earlier this month.
In the event that U.S. forces stationed in Japan intervene in incidents in Taiwan, Japan may provide logistic support under the national security laws, which marked the fifth anniversary of enforcement on Monday.
The Defense Ministry is considering what kinds of activities can be conducted by the Self-Defense Forces for such support.
Top military officials of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, including the incoming commander, recently warned of a contingency surrounding Taiwan, saying that China could use force against it within the next six years and that the possibility is more imminent than expected.
The officials stressed the importance of working with allies, including Japan, to deter such scenarios.
The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, which is in charge of the seas around China, is based in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo.
According to the fleet, vessels dispatched to the western Pacific region passed through the strait between Taiwan and mainland China 13 times last year, the most since 2016. U.S. ships have already passed through the strait three times this year.
If the United States decides to intervene in any incidents involving Taiwan, it is likely to launch attacks from bases in Japan, where some 50,000 personnel are currently stationed.
Japan may offer supplies to U.S. troops under the national security laws if the situation is deemed to significantly impact Japanese peace and safety, such as when military tensions arise in Japanese sea lanes.
The distance between Taiwan and the westernmost Japanese island of Yonaguni in Okinawa Prefecture is only about 110 kilometers. The Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines is a vital sea lane for Japan, which relies on imports for much of its resources.
“We need to discuss with the U.S. side about what actions by the U.S. troops can be expected and how we can give support, depending on the levels of tension in the Taiwan Strait,” a Japanese government source said.
According to a Defense Ministry official, if a U.S. ship on alert defending Japanese sea lanes is attacked, Japan might declare the situation to be a state in which the country’s existence is threatened under the national security laws. That would satisfy one of the three requirements for allowing the SDF to exercise the use of force under the right to collective self-defense.
If the U.S.-China standoff deepens, the SDF may find itself caught up in the fray.