Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Taiwan should upgrade Japan ties: think tank

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Taiwan should seize the opportunity presented by Japan’s recent removal of a ban on collective self-defense and seek to upgrade bilateral relations on economic and security cooperation, a think tank said yesterday.

“As a think tank, we support Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s removal of the ban on collective self-defense rights because it benefits Taiwan’s security,” Taiwan Brain Trust executive director Liu Shih-chung (劉世忠) told a symposium.

Liu urged President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration and Japan to do more for a comprehensive upgrade of bilateral ties, such as accelerating negotiations for a free-trade agreement and the inclusion of the Taiwan Strait in a scheduled revision of the Guidelines for US-Japan Defense Cooperation by the end of the year.

The executive director said the think tank also call on Tokyo to enact a “Japanese version” of the US’ Taiwan Relations Act to strengthen mutual ties and to clearly define its partnership with Taiwan based on democracy and peace.

Tokyo’s move has been welcomes by a majority of Taiwanese academics and politicians, but several academics warned in a forum this week that Taiwan “should not be overjoyed” because, in case Taiwan is attacked, Japan would not be able to help defend Taiwan if the US did not launch military action first.

Theoretically the argument was correct, Liu said, as Tokyo would not be able to respond before Washington does — in terms of the US-Japan Security Treaty.

However, he said, the scenarios in the real world could be very complicated, adding that how Tokyo and Washington respond to such a situation would depend on who the initiator of the conflict is, whether the US decides to engage, whether Japan would follow suit, and the costs and casualties once the US responds to a conflict, among other factors.

“It would be imperative for the Ma administration to engage in serious simulated scenario planning as to what Taiwan’s actions would be if it is attacked,” Liu said.

Ma’s comment on Monday that the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, are stolen and unrecovered territory was “unceremonious and narrow-minded,” and appeared to have been an intentional attempt to provoke Japan, Liu said.

“Rather than taking a jab at Japan, what Ma should do right now is to secure defensive commitments from Japan and the US, because it serves Taiwan’s best interests,” he said.

Doong Sy-chi (董思齊), deputy secretary-general of the Taiwanese Association for Northeast Asia Studies, said Taiwan should closely observe how East Asian countries, in particular South Korea, react to Japan’s move and lay out Taiwan’s diplomatic and strategic goals.

Doong, an expert on Korean politics, said both South Korea and China appeared to have tried to use Japan’s relaxation of the ban for their own diplomatic leverage, as Seoul wanted to address its recent tension with Tokyo by shifting closer to Beijing, while Beijing cozied up to Seoul to fracture the alliance between South Korea, Japan and the US.

South Korea’s main objective is to maintain good relations with both China and the US, Doong said.

“It is up to Taiwan to draw up its own diplomatic plan and stick to it, rather than doing something because somebody else is doing something else,” he said.