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Former Japan defense chief Tokuichiro Tamazawa counsels patience on Taiwan independence

Kyodo

Former defense chief Tokuichiro Tamazawa said Taiwan enjoys de facto independence, making its best policy for the moment to maintain the status quo.

“Taiwan is already an independent, democratic and free country,” Tamazawa said. “To protect your country, it would be a good idea to refrain from acting with undue haste.”

Tamazawa proposed that Taiwan maintain the status quo of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and “wait until the time is ripe,” which he believes will eventually come, he said through a translator.

He did not know how long it would take for Taiwan to become a de jure independent nation since the issue is one that its government must spend time studying, he said.

Citing Mongolia and Baltic states that sought independence from the Soviet Union as examples, Tamazawa said the process could take decades — or even centuries.

Tamazawa made the remarks on the sidelines of the second and final day of the Yushan Forum in Taipei.

The 79-year-old former lawmaker served as head of the Defense Agency between 1994 and 1995. The agency was renamed as the Defense Ministry in 2007.

Tamazawa echoed Kazuo Aichi, another former defense chief, noting that there are many things Taiwan and China must sort out on the matter.

Aichi had said Wednesday, the first day of the forum, that Taiwan has all it takes to become an independent country.

What’s more, Tamazawa said, “China may look strong on the outside, but it has many problems on the inside.”

While a referendum may appear to be a good way to declare independence, Tamazawa added, some countries still encounter difficulties after a majority of their citizens vote in favor of independence

He suggested Taipei might still encounter strong opposition from Beijing even if the people of Taiwan pick independence in a referendum.

The two-day Yushan Forum was organized by a Taiwanese government-affiliated foundation to promote President Tsai Ing-wen’s New Southbound Policy, which groups the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, six South Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand.

The government hopes that enhanced trade with them can reduce Taiwan’s economic dependence on mainland China as an export market and that visitors from those countries will help offset a significant slump in Chinese tourists.

Tamazawa, who gave a keynote address in the morning, said success to the policy lies in people-to-people exchanges, cooperation on agricultural skills and the development of industrial technology.

However, the most important element, he said, is the shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights and rule of law.

“Freedom and independence of a nation should be protected and is indispensable in terms of fighting autocracy,” he said.