The U.S. and Japan conduct military exercises amid increasing tensions between China and Taiwan


The United States and Japan have been conducting military exercises and joint military exercises in response to conflicts with China in Taiwan, as concerns about the arbitrary behavior of the Chinese military continue to escalate.

According to six individuals who asked not to be named, military officials in the United States and Japan have begun to carefully plan for possible conflicts in the final year of the Trump administration. Activities include top-secret tabletop war games and joint exercises in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Due to China’s threat to Taiwan and the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, the then Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, decided in 2019 to substantially expand military planning. According to three people familiar with the matter, this work continues under the leadership of Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

As China sent more fighters and bombers to Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, including 28 fighters that set a record on June 15, the United States and Japan were shocked. The Chinese Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard are also becoming more active near the Senkaku Islands. They are managed by Japan, but China and Taiwan claim sovereignty.

China insists on unifying Taiwan and the mainland. Although it expresses its hope for peaceful reunification, it does not rule out the use of force to seize control of Taiwan.

Randy Schriver, who served as the Pentagon’s senior official for Asian affairs until the end of 2019, said: “In many ways, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has pushed the United States and Japan into new thinking about the Taiwan issue.” At the same time, the issue of distance has been pushed. bring home. “

For a long time, the United States has hoped that Japan, as an ally of the Mutual Defense Treaty, will carry out more joint military planning, but Japan is bound by the post-war peace constitution. When the Abe administration reinterpreted the constitution in 2015 to allow Japan to protect its allies under attack, this obstacle was eased but not eliminated.

As the two allies began to strengthen their joint plan, Japan asked the United States to share its plan for a war against Taiwan, but the Pentagon opposed it because it wanted to concentrate on advancing the plan between the two countries in stages. A former US official stated that the ultimate goal is for these two allies to develop a comprehensive war plan for Taiwan.

Two of the six said that the US military and the Japanese Self-Defense Force conducted joint exercises in the South China Sea for the purpose of disaster relief training. They also held more military exercises near the Senkaku Islands, which also helped prepare for any conflict with China in Taiwan, which is only 350 kilometers west of the island.

“Some of the activities we are training are highly interchangeable,” Shriver said, adding that exercises such as amphibious landings in the “disaster relief scenario” would be “directly applicable” to any conflict around the Senkaku Islands or the Taiwan Strait.

Mark Montgomery, a retired admiral who commanded the USS George Washington aircraft carrier battle group and served as the Director of Operations of Indo-Pacific Command from 2014 to 2017, said that the Pentagon needs a “full understanding” Support conflicts that Japan can provide in the event of a conflict.

Tensions in the Senkaku Islands, managed by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan, intensified © Reuters Kyodo News

He added: “As the crisis develops, Japan may become a participant, and the United States will need to understand how Japan supports or supports American business.”

U.S. and Japanese diplomats are studying legal issues related to any joint military operations, including access to bases and what kind of logistical support Japan can provide to U.S. forces in conflict with China.

In the event of a war in Taiwan, the United States will rely on Japanese air bases. But this increases the likelihood that Tokyo will be involved in the conflict, especially if China tries to destroy the base to thwart the United States.

An official stated that the United States and Japan urgently need to establish a trilateral sharing mechanism with Taiwan to obtain information about the movements of China’s navy and air force, especially around the Miyako Strait east of Taiwan, where sensors from northeastern Japan and Taiwan cover the strait. A sensor from the southwest.

“Some of this data is shared between Taiwan and the United States and between Japan and the United States. But we don’t directly share it trilaterally,” the official said. “You can’t start setting it up in an emergency. You have to do it now.”

Another official said that the three countries took a small but important step in 2017, agreeing to share military aircraft codes to help identify friendly aircraft.

Taiwanese officials and sources in the United States and Japan said that as Japan is increasingly aware of the importance of Taiwan to its own security-Taiwan is 110 kilometers away from Yonaguni Island, the westernmost point of the Japanese archipelago, so the cooperation between the two sides has increased significantly.

“The Japanese government has increasingly realized, and even publicly acknowledged, that defending Taiwan is equivalent to defending Japan,” said Heino Klink, a former senior Pentagon official who was responsible for overseeing military relations with Japan and Taiwan from the end of 2019 to the end of 2019. Trump administration.

The Ministry of Defense of Japan stated that Tokyo and Washington continued to update their joint plan after revising the guidelines for the military alliance in 2015, but declined to provide any details. The Pentagon did not comment.

follow Dmitry Sevastopoulo with Catherine Hiller On twitter

Additional report by Robin Harding in Tokyo


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