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Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

The Japanese diet must support a free Taiwan with a resolution

By Vaseline May30,2024
The Japanese diet must support a free Taiwan with a resolution

Just at the time of the presidential inauguration in Taiwan on May 20, the Chinese ambassador to Japan, Wu Jianghao, made an intimidating remark. He said the Japanese people would suffer from China’s armed attack if Japan actively participated in the split between the two countries. Two days later, Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi made it clear that his government was immediately and strongly protesting against China through diplomatic channels.

Unfortunately, given the circumstances, since Wu became ambassador in 2023, Japan’s protest has been not only insufficient but also irrelevant. Therefore, it is now imperative to take effective countermeasures.

Furthermore, Wu’s comment was incorrect. Indeed, Japan has consistently maintained unofficial relations with the Taiwanese authorities since its recognition of the Republic of China in 1972. Recently, however, Tokyo itself and through the Japan-US alliance has taken a number of important defense policy measures. But this is only a response to Beijing’s increasing saber-rattling in general and its military and paramilitary pressure on Japan’s Senkaku and the southwesternmost islands. These islands are located within Taiwan’s larger military operations area.

Outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen, new President Lai Ching-te and new Vice President Hsiao Bi-khim wave during the inauguration ceremony. In front of the Presidential Palace in Taipei on May 20. (©Kyodo)

Beijing’s Japanese policy

However, Wu’s comment cannot be attributed solely to his personal opinion or initiative. It was almost identical to a comment he made during his speech to the Japan Press Club on April 28, 2023, shortly after arriving in Japan. This iteration certainly reflected careful advance preparation by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This suggests that the two similar comments can be attributed to Beijing’s persistent Japan policy. Wu even looked at a memo referencing the repeated comment in question.

Clearly, both of Wu’s iterations demonstrate Beijing’s disdain for Tokyo, making Japan’s protest against his second comment completely irrelevant. Beijing is engaged in a salami-slicing strategy to eventually paralyze the sense of crisis in Tokyo. The goal is to make Japan’s underdog mentality and status the new normal. Without a decisive setback, Beijing will certainly try its luck and repeat similar comments, and probably increasingly dire ones.

Notably, Tokyo could declare Ambassador Wu persona non grata as a countermeasure against Beijing, in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. This can be done without having to provide any explanation. Such a declaration is usually made to expel diplomats suspected of espionage and open criminal offenses. However, it can be used to achieve other objectives, including in response to Wu’s threats.

Possible strategies

Would such a move lead to a confrontation with the Japanese ambassador to China? The Japanese ambassador did not threaten the Chinese people. However, Beijing could also impose countermeasures in other policy areas that Tokyo deems important. This could plausibly increase tension in bilateral diplomatic relations. Yet Tokyo’s perseverance is now more important than ever to excel in such a game against Beijing. Tokyo now stands at the crossroads of whether to maintain or lose its current position of power vis-à-vis Beijing.

Chinese Ambassador to Japan Wu Jianghao speaks about Taiwan during a roundtable discussion at the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo on May 20. (© Sankei by Tomo Kuwashima)

To avoid unnecessary complications, Tokyo could take a first step by temporarily recalling the Japanese ambassador to China. This softer method is often used to symbolically express strong displeasure. Tokyo could then consider declaring Ambassador Wu persona non grata if Beijing escalates the issue.

Most importantly, Tokyo’s diplomatic countermeasures are necessary but not sufficient to deal with Wu’s case. This is because his second comment, given its timing, was also aimed at the broad nonpartisan delegation. It consisted of some thirty pro-Taiwan lawmakers from the House of Commons and the House of Lords who attended the inauguration ceremony and events.

It is clear that Wu’s intimidating comment expressed Beijing’s displeasure with Japan’s parliamentary diplomacy with Taiwan, including relations outside formal interstate channels. In this sense, the comment signified Beijing’s sinister plan to curtail the freedom of the Japanese parliament. By extension, it challenged the Japanese people as a whole.

Need for a bicameral resolution

That is why it is high time that the Reichstag makes its position on the collective freedom of parliamentary diplomacy crystal clear. This includes in particular the freedom to express support for a free, democratic and prosperous Taiwan. More specifically, the Diet can and should adopt an impartial, bicameral resolution for this purpose.

The advantages of this option lie in its non-legally binding and exclusively domestic political nature. It is free from both international and domestic legal restrictions. This option does not conflict with the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952, the Japan-China Joint Communique of 1972, or the bilateral Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1978.

The Taiwanese lobby, both inside and outside Japan, has long advocated a Japanese version of a Taiwan Relations Act that mimics the American precedent. However, it is simply a nonstarter due to the complete lack of legal interests and protections. That is, Japan has given up Taiwan’s sovereign title without assigning it to another country in accordance with the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty. Tokyo has not maintained official interstate relations with Taipei since its non-recognition.

Therefore, a bicameral resolution can serve to strengthen good informal relations between Japan and Taiwan. With such a resolution, Beijing’s devious schemers will be trapped in their own plan.

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Author: Masahiro Matsumura

Masahiro Matsumura, PhD is Professor of International Politics and National Security at St. Andrew’s University in Osaka. He is a 2024 ROC-MOFA Taiwan Fellow-in-Residence at the Taiwan Center, Institute of International Relations of National Chengchi University.

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