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Expert: Japan-U.S. summit emphasized strong defense

The Mainichi Shimbun’s Kim Su-Young sat down with Sophia University professor Maeshima Kazuhiro.


Professor Maeshima Kazuhiro

During the joint press conference following the Japan-U.S. summit, U.S. President Joe Biden expressed his intention to defend Taiwan, and Prime Minister Kishida Fumio declared that “Japan will drastically strengthen its defense capabilities,” including the possession of a counterattack ability.


This indicates that the leaders of the U.S. and Japan demonstrated a much stronger stance toward China than in the past. In the official view of the U.S. government, the U.S. maintains a “fuzzy strategy” that intentionally does not clarify an obligation to defend Taiwan.


However, reporters on three occasions, including this time, have asked President Biden if he intends to defend Taiwan, and he has answered “yes” on each occasion.


Every time President Biden answers in the affirmative, the State Department releases a statement saying there is no change in U.S. policy on Taiwan. This pattern has been repeated in the past as if by prearrangement, so it is clear that President Biden has intends to defend Taiwan. 


The challenge for both Japan and the U.S. will be how to persuade the Japanese and American publics to support this idea in practice. The U.S. will need to hold domestic discussions toward altering the strategy of ambiguity, and Japan will need to persuade its people to drastically strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities.


There are hopes within the Japanese government that the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) will serve as a foundation for the U.S. to return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, but this will not be easily accomplished.


As there is currently no support for promoting the TPP across party lines in the U.S., calling for its promotion could be political suicide. Since the IPEF is an administrative agreement that does not require ratification by the U.S. Congress, it can be said that the IPEF is a measure taken under the pressure of the necessity for the U.S. to engage in the Indo-Pacific region.


It is uncertain whether the IPEF will continue after the Biden administration, but it will need to be further developed and made more substantial in order to be more effective.

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