英文

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

日本首相菅義偉訪問美國,在聯合聲明中罕有地提到台灣,這是中日建交以來日本首次有此舉動,足見日本是鐵了心要抱美國大腿對抗中國。

日本要依仗美國打台灣牌,有迹可循。上月在日本舉行的日美外長防長2+2會談聯合聲明中,已經提到「台灣海峽和平穩定之重要」。

這次日美聯合聲明,宣稱要聯合發展5G6G,跟中國比一日長短,這也無可厚非,兩個處於5G競爭劣勢的國家,要聯手追趕中國,鹿死誰手,市場自會分曉。但外交上的準則與慣例,就是兩國合作不會針對第三國,起碼牌面上不會,這次美日聯合聲明點名中國,並且將焦點放在中國最敏感的台灣問題上,明顯不過的就是要叫板。

1972年中日建交,中國可以放棄對日本的戰爭賠償要求,但要求日本必須承認中國對台灣的主權,日本表示充分理解和尊重中國的這一立場。幾十年來,日本跟中國不時有各種各樣的矛盾,但都不敢明目張膽的打台灣牌,這次改弦更張,顯然是因為看到美國對中國實施遏制的決心,日本徹底倒向美國,是押上了「國本」,然則,日本為何賭得這麽大?日本最希望成為「正常國家」,美國於此對日本是否有承諾?2+2聯合聲明,已經寫明日本會「加强軍力」,加强什麽軍力?是否包括美國默許日本「將發展非常規軍力」?都值得關注。

中國跟美國的競爭,是長期和多方面的,什麼時候在哪些方面正面衝突或者忍而不發,既有策略性的考慮,也有戰術上的套路,但有一點必須搞清楚,中國人熟知三十六計,其中圍魏救趙一計後來演變成圍點打援,即是說要攻靶心,可以先打擊靶心外圍的力量。中美之間何時正面交鋒,難以逆料,但打擊美國要拉攏的「小弟」,或許把握與效果都會大一些。

這種戰術近期也不乏例子,澳洲要加盟美國在亞洲地區內對抗中國,馬上受到中國禁買煤炭、紅酒等等的「制裁」。這次日本不但主辦了印太地區的四方會談,顯示了響應美國的印太地區戰略部署,還捅破了中國最敏感的議題,打台灣牌,可以估計,中國對日本的反制措施,一定不會少。中國對美國可能在一時間不會改變「鬥而不破」的戰略方針,但對日本,為何不可以實施圍點打援的戰術呢?

■/ 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

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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