With 5 missiles, China sends a strong signal to Japan and the United States in Taiwan

TOKYO — North Korea has for years launched missiles into Japanese waters without much incident. But the fact that an increasingly power...


TOKYO — North Korea has for years launched missiles into Japanese waters without much incident. But the fact that an increasingly powerful and aggressive China is doing the same – as it did on Thursday in military exercises – has raised serious concerns in political and security circles from Tokyo to Washington. .

Beijing’s firing of five missiles into waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone east of Taiwan sent a warning to the United States and Japan to come to Taiwan’s aid in the event of a conflict there. low, analysts said. .

Beijing wants to remind Washington that it can strike not only Taiwan but also US bases in the region, such as Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, as well as any maritime invasion force, said Thomas G. Mahnken, a former Pentagon official who is now president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.

It also reminds the Japanese that the US military presence in Okinawa makes Japan a target, he added.

Daniel Sneider, a Japanese foreign relations expert at Stanford University, said the Chinese “want to demonstrate that they have the ability to blockade Taiwan, and they want to send a very clear message to those who would come to the aid of Taiwan”. Taiwan – the United States and Japan – that they can also target them.

“If anyone in Japan thought they could avoid getting involved in a conflict in the Taiwan Strait,” Sneider added, “the Chinese have demonstrated that is not the case.”

Analysts have also suggested that Chinese military exercises in the waters around Taiwan appear likely to alter the status quo in the region, just as the 1995 and 1996 exercises erased the median line in the center of the Taiwan Strait.

“This exercise will last only three days,” said Tetsuo Kotani, professor of international relations at Meikai University and senior researcher at the Japan Institute of International Affairs, “but this type of massive exercise may become routine. over the next few years.”

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, whose visit to Taiwan this week sparked regional tensions, arrived in Japan on Thursday evening and is expected to meet with key Japanese politicians on Friday, starting with a breakfast with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Some analysts have argued that if Beijing’s intention was to intimidate Japan, the missile strikes could have the opposite effect on Japanese leaders.

“Seeing something like this unfold and having Chinese missiles land in Japan’s economic zone might actually speed up the case for a faster increase in defense spending,” said Yuki Tatsumi, Japan program director. at the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank.

Japan watched its neighbor’s growing strength with suspicion for years and began planning to take more responsibility for its own defense, working more closely with its allies to counter China and relying less on Washington.

This shift from its post-war pacifist orientation gained new momentum with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, after which the ruling Liberal Democrats recommended doubling military spending to 2% of domestic product. raw.

More hawkish politicians have pushed Japan to develop a first-strike capability with conventionally armed missiles, and have even suggested the country may one day welcome US nuclear weapons as a deterrent. Such a speech would have been unthinkable ten years ago.

Taiwan, just 110 kilometers from a Japanese military base on Yonaguni Island in Okinawa Prefecture, is at the center of Tokyo’s security concerns. He is one of Japan’s main trading partnersis a major source of advanced computer chips and straddles a narrow strait through which virtually all of Japan’s energy resources pass.

Policymakers fear that any military confrontation on the island will inevitably draw in Japan, which hosts US military bases near Okinawa and has had a contentious territorial dispute with Beijing over the Senkaku Islands.

In its most recent white paper, Japan’s Defense Ministry has warned that the country should have “a sense of crisis” over the possibility of a US-China confrontation.

Preparing for such an event, military planners have increased coordination with U.S. forces and moved more troops and missile batteries to southern islands of japanwho could be on the front line of a confrontation.

In December, during an address to a Taiwanese political organization, Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister who was assassinated last month, warned that a “Taiwanese crisis would be a Japanese crisis. In other words, a crisis for the US-Japan alliance.

In an April op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, he called on the United States to clarify its policy of “strategic ambiguity” towards the island, arguing that it “promotes instability in the Indo region. -peaceful, by encouraging China to underestimate American determination.

The Japanese public has taken a keen interest in the issue of Taiwan’s security in recent years, as concerns have grown over supply chains, China’s regional military activity and its treatment of Uyghurs. and its hostility to democratic governance in Hong Kong. Since the start of the pandemic, public opinion has been radically opposed to China, while support for Taiwan has grown rapidly.

Shortly after the missiles landed, Tokyo sent an official protest to China and asked it to immediately halt its military exercises near Taiwan, Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Speaking to reporters, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi called the incident a “serious issue that concerns our national security and the safety of the people”.

Earlier Thursday, before the missiles were fired, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters that Beijing does not recognize Japan’s economic zone, where the missiles had landed.

China also canceled a meeting between its foreign minister, Wang Yi, and his Japanese counterpart, Yoshimasa Hayashi, after the Group of 7 industrialized countries issued a statement expressing concern over Beijing’s “threatening actions” around Taiwan.

The missile incident is something of a familiar routine for Japan, which has seen 10 North Korean ballistic missiles land in its economic zone since 2016. In the short term, according to Ms Tatsumi, the analyst, Japan’s response to Beijing risks following the same scenario as with Pyongyang: diplomatic protests and more vigilance.

“Japan certainly doesn’t want to be blamed by China for its quote-unquote overreaction,” she said, “so they won’t retaliate with anything physical, but their scrutiny will intensify.”

In the longer term, however, China should expect Japan to toughen up militarily, she said.

“It won’t slow down Japan’s debate on increasing its defense spending,” she added. “If anything, it will probably speed it up, and it will also speed up conversations between the United States and Japan.”

Hisako Ueno and Makiko Inoue contributed reporting from Tokyo and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

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Newsrust - US Top News: With 5 missiles, China sends a strong signal to Japan and the United States in Taiwan
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