Japan’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday it would consider its “options” and make necessary “preparations” toward supporting Taiwan if China continues to ramp up its military intimidation of the island.
Asked by reporters how Tokyo views Beijing’s record-breaking flyovers through Taiwanese airspace in recent days, Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu said he hoped “this matter is resolved peacefully between the two parties through direct talks.”
“Additionally, instead of simply monitoring the situation, we hope to weigh the various possible scenarios that may arise to consider what options we have, as well as the preparations we must make,” he said at an October 5 press briefing.
“Motegi’s comments on Taiwan mark a departure from the past by explicitly speaking of possible involvement, and were also aimed at drawing international attention to the issue and pressing China,” Reuters observed on Tuesday, citing the analysis of political experts.
“That part was always unspoken … but this time, they’re taking a stronger stand,” Yoichiro Sato, an international relations professor at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, told Reuters on October 5.
Japan’s use of assertive language while addressing the Taiwan-China conflict on October 5 signaled a significant shift in rhetoric according to Robert Ward, a London-based senior fellow for Japanese Security Studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“It is drawing a line of sorts and thus creating expectations,” he told Reuters.
“The new government will continue with the harder line, as Motegi is showing. This fits with Japan’s broader push to balance China from a position of strength,” Ward opined.
Japanese Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo appeared to walk back Motegi’s uncharacteristically bold statement on Tuesday in separate comments to the press. Tokyo hopes Beijing and Taipei find a solution to their territorial dispute via “direct dialogue,” he told reporters at a press conference on October 5.
“It is Japan’s consistent stance that we hope the issue surrounding Taiwan will be resolved through direct dialogue between the party involved,” Kishi assured journalists.
Tokyo has become increasingly invested in deterring Chinese military encroachments of Taiwan because the island lies a short distance away from Japan’s Senkaku islets, which are illegally claimed by Beijing.
“Because we are close geographically, what could happen in Taiwan could likely be an issue for Japan, and in that case, Japan will have to take the necessary response to that situation,” Kishi told CNN on September 16.