By Ju-min Park
TOKYO (Reuters) – A senior Japanese defense official on Friday called on US President-elect Joe Biden to “be strong” in supporting Taiwan in the face of an aggressive China, calling the island’s security a “hotline” red “.
“We are concerned that China will expand its aggressive stance to areas other than Hong Kong. I think one of the next targets, or what everyone is concerned about, is Taiwan,” Defense Minister Yasuhide Nakayama told Reuters.
In an interview, Nakayama, Japan’s deputy defense minister, asked Biden to take a similar stance on Taiwan as outgoing President Donald Trump, who significantly increased military sales to the island claimed by China and increased engagement. .
Japan’s involvement with Taiwan has also flourished in recent years on a largely non-governmental basis. Tokyo maintains a “one China” policy, delicately balancing its relations with neighboring giant China and its long-standing military ally in Washington.
Japan shares strategic interests with Taiwan, which sits on sea routes through which much of Japan’s energy supply and trade flows.
“So far, I haven’t seen a clear policy or announcement about Taiwan from Joe Biden yet. I would like to hear that quickly, so we can also prepare our response on Taiwan accordingly,” said Nakayama.
During the presidential campaign, Biden called for strengthening ties with Taiwan and other “democracies with similar ideas”.
Decades ago as a senator, Biden questioned whether the United States had an “obligation” to defend Taiwan. But many in their foreign policy circles recognize that US imperatives have changed as a growing and authoritarian China has become more assertive and has sought to shape global institutions.
An official on the Biden transition team said the president-elect believes that US support for Taiwan “should remain strong, principled and bipartisan”.
“Once in office, he will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues according to the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan,” said the official.
Beijing is irritated by increased US support for Taiwan, including arms sales and visits to Taipei by senior US officials, further damaging already weak Chinese-American ties. China regards democratically governed Taiwan as one of its provinces and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control.
“Taiwan is an internal matter for China,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Friday. “We are strongly opposed to interference in China’s internal affairs by any country or anyone by any means.”
In Taipei, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou noted the United States’ strong bipartisan support for Taiwan, based on the “shared language” of freedom and democracy.
“Taiwan looks forward to working closely with the Biden team to continue to improve Taiwan-US relations based on the strong friendship that exists,” she said.
The American authorities in Tokyo could not be reached because the embassy was closed for Christmas.
“There is a red line in Asia – China and Taiwan,” said Nakayama, citing a red line that former President Barack Obama declared about Syria’s use of chemical weapons – a line that Damascus then crossed. Biden was Obama’s vice president.
“How will Joe Biden at the White House react in any case if China crosses that red line?” said Nakayama, who attended a memorial to former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui in August, before taking up his defense position. “The United States is the leader of democratic countries. I have a strong feeling of saying: America, be strong!”
Chinese fighters in recent months have led waves of incursions, including crossing the sensitive midline between China and Taiwan, intensifying pressure tactics to undermine Taiwan’s will to resist, say current and former Taiwanese and American military personnel.
Taiwan deployed its navy and air force on Sunday, while a group of Chinese aircraft carriers led by the country’s newest aircraft carrier sailed across the sensitive Taiwan strait, the day after a U.S. warship was crossing the same waterway.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei, Yew Lun Tian in Beijing and Simon Lewis in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by William Mallard and Diane Craft)