TAIPEI – A Japanese lawmaker said Wednesday that Japan should strengthen its strategic ties with its neighbors, including Taiwan, in the face of a rising China and a new administration in the United States.
Keisuke Suzuki of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party told a panel discussion of an international forum in Taipei that the Asian region is facing two main challenges: the rise of China and potential isolationism following the election of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.
If Japan and the United States do not show a clear commitment to the region economically and militarily, regional countries will “inevitably move closer to mainland China because they are really vulnerable,” Suzuki said in English.
Suzuki said as China seeks a decrease in the influence of the United States in the Asian region, it continues its military buildup, including developing nuclear submarines at Hainan Island in the South China Sea.
There are two ways for the nuclear submarines to access the Pacific Ocean, Suzuki said. One is to pass Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines and the other is to pass Miyako Strait in Okinawa Prefecture.
Over the past few months, China’s People’s Liberation Army has conducted several aviation training missions in the area, causing uneasiness in Taiwan and Japan.
“In that context, cooperation between China and Japan, Japan and the United States, the United States and Taiwan, and Taiwan and Japan needs to be strengthened,” Suzuki said.
Such cooperation could include intelligence sharing, he said, adding that direct channels of exchanging military intelligence between Japan and Taiwan are lacking.
Suzuki said because Taiwan is one of Japan’s most important partners in the region, he personally thinks military cooperation is necessary.
“The existence of a free Taiwan here is very important for Japan’s security,” he said. “Once Taiwan has too strong pressure from mainland China, it is also the problem of national security for Japan itself.”
Cooperation on building Taiwan’s indigenous submarines and jet trainers is also possible, he said, but it will take time.
Taiwan’s air force plans to complete the design of its first indigenous submarine by 2019 and commission the vessel by 2025.
The Air Force plans to see the completion of prototypes of an indigenous jet trainer in 2019 and the start mass production in 2023.