- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Introduction (Japan-Taiwan Interaction: Implications for the United States)

Roy Kamphausen

The anti-secession law passed by China’s National People’s Congress on March 14, 2005 has raised concern that renewed military tension might occur across the Taiwan Strait. Given that assistance from Japan would be an important factor in the effectiveness of any military component of a U.S. response to further escalation of tension, insight into the likely extent of Japanese support for U.S. policy in the Strait is of pressing concern to Washington.

There is, however, no clear answer as to how Japan would likely react. Note, for instance, that in the March 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis very little dialogue took place between Japanese and U.S. officials as to whether U.S. forces operating from Japan triggered the requirement for “prior consultations” articulated in an exchange of notes that occurred during the negotiation of the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.There was even less discussion as to the role, if any, that Japan could have played in the crisis. Although a comprehensive review of the Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation began later that year, the extent of Japan’s geographical support limitations in the event of any U.S. military intervention in the region has remained unclear.

Thus many were taken by surprise at the issuance of the February 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee [reproduced in Appendix I]. This committee was the so-called “2+2” meeting of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and their Japanese counterparts, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nobutaka Machimura and Minister of State for Defense and Director-General of the Defense Agency Yoshinori Ohno. This statement captured headlines by announcing that the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait was a common regional strategic objective of the United States and Japan.

Immediate reactions to the Joint Statement both in the region and around the world emphasized that the inclusion of the Taiwan issue marked an entirely new period in U.S.-Japan and Sino-Japan relations. Commentators were quick to assert that the Joint Statement reflected discontinuity with recent regional history and bilateral policy, and opined that the Joint Statement might lead to a degradation of...

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