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Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke up on the matter of American “ambiguity” regarding Taiwan as the Russian invasion of Ukraine reportedly emboldens China.
Abe, who stepped down as Prime Minister because of health issues in 2020, appeared on a Japanese morning show on Fuji TV Sunday to discuss rising tensions, Nikkei Asia reported. Abe specifically brought up his belief that the United States should be clear on their stance regarding Taiwan’s safety.
“The U.S. takes a strategy of ambiguity,” Abe explained, “meaning it may or may not intervene militarily if Taiwan is attacked. By showing it may intervene, it keeps China in check, but by leaving the possibility that it may not intervene, it makes sure that the [Taiwanese] forces for independence do not run out of control.”
Abe on Fuji TV says it is time for the U.S. to ditch strategic ambiguity and make clear it will defend Taiwan. pic.twitter.com/VqwpAxdvoi
— Ken Moriyasu (@kenmoriyasu) February 26, 2022
Nicholas Burns, President Biden’s nominee for ambassador to China, though critical of Beijing in his Senate confirmation hearing, has stood in favor of the ambiguity with Taiwan saying, “The smartest and effective way for us to help deter aggressive actions by [China] across the Taiwan Strait will be to stay with a policy that’s been in place.”
Biden himself had previously alluded to this policy referring to it as the “Taiwan agreement.”
Biden on Taiwan:
"I’ve spoken with Xi about Taiwan. We agree— We’ll abide by the Taiwan agreement, that’s where we are, and we made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement.”pic.twitter.com/lBSYlWKm8P
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) October 5, 2021
After conversations with China’s President Xi in October 2021, Biden said in part, “we made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement.”
American foreign policy experts and members of Congress disagree with this stance. Richard Haass, President of the Council of Foreign Relations called for a move toward “‘strategic clarity” more in line with what Abe is proposing.
“It is time to abandon this ambiguity strategy,” Abe stated. “The people of Taiwan share our universal values, so I think the U.S. should firmly abandon its ambiguity.”
Abe further stipulated that the neutral stance from the United States posed a specific danger to Japan because if China, “were to secure wide air superiority” in an operation against Taiwan, “it would also cover Japan’s airspace. [China] would conduct operations in and above the waters too, so this would affect Japan’s territorial waters, or at least our exclusive economic zone.”
As a member of the G-7 that took part in discussions with the U.S. on how best to deal with Russia’s actions against Ukraine, Abe also feels that Japan should have a relationship more akin to the U.S. and NATO allies. Specifically, he believes they should host U.S. nuclear weapons.
While this would be a major shift in policy from the “three non-nuclear principles” Japan has adhered to since the end of World War II, Abe stated, “We need to understand how security is maintained around the world and not consider it taboo to have an open discussion.”
Abe’s concerns are warranted as recent reports have indicated that China may have negotiated mutual support with Russia. Ming Jinwei, an editor for Chinese state media, posted instructions on how the invasion of Ukraine should be covered to ensure future reciprocity from Russia.
China, “has to back Russia up with emotional and moral support while refraining from treading on the toes of the United States and European Union,” and, “In the future,” the editor went on, “China will also need Russia’s understanding and support when wrestling with America to solve the Taiwan issue once and for all.”
This has brought concerns that China is attempting to intends to take action to alter the long standing “One China” policy the U.S. agrees to that while the People’s Republic of China is the sole government of Taiwan, China does not hold sovereignty over Taiwan.
“If things are kept as they are, that is the status quo,” Abe articulated. “We should make clear that we will not allow the status quo to be altered by force.”
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