Editorial:US-Japan alliance

【明報專訊】Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has paid a visit to the United States. The ''Joint Leaders' Statement'' brings up Taiwan, which is rare. This is the first such move by Japan since the establishment of Sino-Japanese relations, which clearly shows that Japan is utterly determined to confront China on the US's coat-tails.

There were early hints that Japan might rely on the United States to play the Taiwan card. In the joint statement of the 2+2 talks held in Japan last month between the two countries' foreign and defence ministers, ''the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait'' was already mentioned.

This time, in the Japan-US joint statement, the two countries have declared that they will jointly develop 5G and 6G so as to compete actively with China. This cannot be faulted. They are at a disadvantage in the 5G race, and the final result of their joint efforts to play catch up with China will surely be determined by the market. However, according to diplomatic norms and established practice, cooperation between two countries should not target a third one, at least not openly. This time the US-Japan joint statement names China and focuses on Taiwan, China's most sensitive issue, which is a clear provocation.

In 1972, when China and Japan established diplomatic relations, China said it could give up its claim for war reparations against Japan, but Japan must recognise China's sovereignty over Taiwan. Back then Japan said that it fully understood and respected China's stance. Over the past decades, tensions of all kinds have arisen from time to time between Japan and China, but Japan has not dared to play the Taiwan card blatantly. Obviously, that Japan has made the switch is because it realised the US's determination to contain China. It has completely swung to the US and gambled its foundations as a nation on that. Why has it made such a large bet? Japan has wanted most of all to become a ''normal country''. Is the US committed to that? As already clearly mentioned in the 2+2 joint statement, Japan will ''enhance its capabilities to bolster national defence''. What kind of ''capabilities'' will it enhance? Does it include the US's acquiescence to Japan's development of unconventional military power? All this merits attention.

The Sino-US rivalry is long-term and multi-faceted. When and in which areas the two countries will confront or tolerate each other is a matter of strategic considerations as well as tactics. But one thing must be clear. The Chinese are familiar with the Thirty-Six Stratagems, from which they adopted the ''Besiege Wei and rescue Zhao'' tactic and used it to encircle their arch-enemies by luring and attacking their reinforcements, which means zeroing in on the bull's-eye on a target by first striking at the outer circles. It is hard to predict when China and the US will compete head-to-head with each other, but hitting the ''little brother'' that the US wants to woo may be more promising and effective.

There is no shortage of recent examples of this tactic. Australia wanted to join the US in the fight against China in Asia. Then China immediately sanctioned it by not buying its coal, red wine, etc. This time Japan has not only hosted the four-party talks in the Indo-Pacific region, which show that it has moved into alignment with the US's strategic deployment in the region, but has also cracked the veneer of not touching upon China's most sensitive issue by playing the Taiwan card. It is foreseeable that China's countermeasures against Japan will definitely be numerous. For the time being, China may not change its strategy of ''competing with the US without falling out with it''. But when it comes to Japan, why can China not use the tactics of encirclement of the arch-enemy and attacking the reinforcements?

明報社評 2021.04.19:美日聯手打台灣牌 中國先抗日後禦美







■/ Glossary / 生字 /

on sb's coat-tails:using the success and influence of another person to help yourself become successful

blatantly /ˈbleɪtntli/:in an obvious and open way without caring if people are shocked

acquiescence /ˌækwiˈesns/:the fact of being willing to do what sb wants and to accept their opinions, even if you are not sure that they are right


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