0909: Japan PM Contender Warns Taiwan’s Security, EU Proposals to Bolster Ties with Taiwan

Japan PM Contender Kishida Warns Taiwan’s Security amid China’s Increasing Aggressiveness

 The Taiwan Strait may be the next major problem, and countering China would be a top priority, Fumio Kishida, a top contender to succeed Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, said in recent interviews, expressing the importance of Taiwan to Japan’s security and deep concerns about China’s aggressive behavior.

Speaking in an interview with Bloomberg News on September 3, just before Suga made a surprise announcement that he was stepping down, Kishida said that he has a strong feeling that “the Taiwan Strait will be the next big problem” after China’s clampdown on Hong Kong and abuses in Xinjiang. “Taiwan is at the frontline of the standoff between the U.S. and China,” he said, adding that Japan should seek to cooperate with Taiwan and countries that share its values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, as authoritarian countries wield more power.

Dealing with China would be a top priority in his government, Kishida told Nikkei in an interview on September 2. He pledged to protect Japan’s geopolitical interests with a focus on economic security. As the U.S. and China compete for technological dominance, Japan, the U.S., Taiwan, and South Korea should coordinate to secure supply chains for strategically important goods such as semiconductors. On defense, Kishida emphasized the need for the capabilities to strike enemy missile bases to prevent to an imminent attack.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Kishida also struck a hard-line tone on China, stating the need of Japan and the U.S. to run joint simulations on how to respond together in a crisis scenario involving Taiwan, which is at the front line of the clash between democracy and authoritarianism. As a practical matter, Japan cannot respond on its own but needs to cooperate with its ally, the U.S., he said.

Kishida’s remarks are significant since he heads a faction within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that was once known for its friendly ties with China, a policy Kishida said was tailored to the diplomatic landscape of the time and needed to be adapted to a new reality. “The times have changed a great deal,” he said. “China has also changed” and “is now a big presence in international society,” and “I have various concerns about its authoritarian attitude,” Kishida said.

Corey Wallace, a foreign-policy expert, told Foreign Policy that “the support for Taiwan has markedly increased” throughout Japan’s political spectrum. He noted that Kishida’s comments show that “Taiwan will be an important issue for Japan.” And Kishida’s main rival, Taro Kono, a former foreign minister as well, “is also known for being a Taiwan booster.”

[1] Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-03/top-contender-to-lead-japan-warns-taiwan-is-next-big-problem
[2] Nikkei Asia: https://asia.nikkei.com/Editor-s-Picks/Interview/Countering-China-is-top-priority-for-Japan-PM-contender-Kishida
[3] Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/contender-for-japan-leader-sees-need-for-missile-strike-ability-11631015401
[4] Foreign Policy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/09/07/japan-prime-minister-suga-successor-rivals/

European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Passes Proposals to Enhance EU-Taiwan Relations

On September 1, the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee passed a report and related amendments to enhance European Union-Taiwan relations, including a call on the EU to begin preparing for the possible signing of an EU-Taiwan Bilateral Investment Agreement and to rename the EU representative office in Taipei to the “European Union Office in Taiwan.” The draft report, titled “EU-Taiwan Relations and Cooperation,” will be brought to the floor of the European Parliament scheduled for next month.

The report expresses deep concern over Chinese military pressure against Taiwan, urging the EU “to do more to address these tensions and to protect Taiwan’s democracy and the island’s status as an important EU partner.” It calls on China to cease any action that jeopardizes peace in the Taiwan Strait and insists that any change to cross-Taiwan Strait relations “must be neither unilateral nor against the will of Taiwanese citizens.”

The report recommended that the EU initiate work on a Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIA) with Taiwan and hold talks with the country at the highest official levels. It highlights the importance of trade and economic relations between the two sides, including on matters relating to multilateralism and the World Trade Organization (WTO), technology such as 5G, public health, as well as essential cooperation on critical supplies, including semiconductors.

The Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee also passed an amendment to call on changing the name of the “European Economic and Trade Office” (EETO) in Taipei to “European Union Office in Taiwan” to reflect the broad scope of bilateral ties. The office represents EU interests in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

In a statement on September 2, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) thanked the committee, saying that the nation looks forward to more milestones in Taiwan-EU ties. The ministry would closely monitor the European Parliament’s upcoming vote, it said, adding that the report marked the 10th anniversary of a visa-waiver agreement between Taiwan and the EU.

Meanwhile, in an open letter issued on September 3, more than 60 European Parliament members from 20 countries and five different political groups voiced their support for Lithuania’s decision to forge closer ties with Taiwan, and expressed opposition against threats and intimidation from China. “We write to express our solidarity and our support for Lithuania against the threats, intimidation and bullying behavior targeted at the Lithuanian people by the government of the People’s Republic of China,” they wrote.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202109020006
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2021/09/03/2003763712
[3] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202109040004