How will Taiwan maintain stability while China has maintained the option of unification of Taiwan by force?
Taiwan’s own defense efforts are important, but at the same time, the strong determination of the countries concerned to make China pay for its military provocations will also be put to the test.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly expressed his desire to unify Taiwan. China has been improving its military capabilities in anticipation of an armed invasion. It has reportedly conducted drills to transport a large number of landing troops using large civilian ferries and has strengthened its air force base on the shore opposite Taiwan.
Under the current circumstances, in which many people in Taiwan do not want unification, Xi seems to judge that military pressure is effective to achieve that goal.
Taiwan estimates that China “will be able to mount a full-scale invasion of Taiwan by 2025.” In a speech delivered on the Double Tenth, Taiwan’s National Day, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said that “nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us,” which could be said to be a sign of the strong sense of urgency.
Aside from its annual defense budget of about ¥1.9 trillion, the Tsai administration intends to spend about ¥1 trillion over the next five years to build up its missile capabilities and warships. The shortage of soldiers will reportedly be made up by expanding the number of reserve troops.
It cannot be denied that Taiwan has been slow to respond to China’s rapid military expansion. It is important for Taiwan, a concerned party, to show that it is committed to improving its defense capabilities.
The United States has so far placed priority on maintaining the status quo in China-Taiwan relations, maintaining its “strategic ambiguity” that does not explicitly state whether the United States will intervene in the event of an armed invasion by China into Taiwan.
Behind this U.S. strategy are concerns that if the United States makes clear its intention to defend Taiwan in the event of an emergency, it would give China an excuse to build up its military capabilities and heighten tensions in the Taiwan Strait. The overwhelming superiority of U.S. military power has supported this strategic ambiguity.
However, the military balance between the United States and China over the Taiwan Strait is now leaning toward China’s superiority. China, which has grown more confident, could misinterpret the strategic ambiguity that the United States will not intervene in an emergency. The United States is being forced to reconsider the appropriateness of the strategy.
While China has been trying to isolate Taiwan in a diplomatic offensive, Taiwan has been using its cutting-edge semiconductor technology as a powerful tool to strengthen relations with the United States, Europe, Australia and Japan. The European Parliament has called on the European Union to strengthen economic and trade relations with Taiwan.
It is wise for Taiwan to deepen ties with countries that share democratic values, with economic security at the core.
Stability in the Taiwan Strait is essential to Japan’s security. The Japanese government needs to actively send a message to China that threats against Taiwan and unilateral changes to the status quo are unacceptable.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Oct. 29, 2021.