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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times The balance between the US, Japan and Taiwan

The balance between the US, Japan and Taiwan

Though what the Japanese prime minister-elect said before the election was alarming, my prediction is that nothing much will change in Japan’s policy toward the US or Taiwan.

Yukio Hatoyama is chairman of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), a collection of anti-Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) factions whose ideology ranges from the extreme right to the extreme left.

The DPJ is even more fractured than the LDP. Before the election, a DPJ legislator jokingly said that if they were elected, their government would collapse within a week. Although this was an exaggeration, collapse within a few months is possible.

Japan has had no unified national strategy since the end of World War II. Its attitude and policies toward other Asian countries follow those of the US. Tokyo’s policy toward Taiwan will only change if Washington’s does. People say Japanese prime ministers after the war are experts in karaoke — Americans write songs and they sing them.

The danger is changes in US policy toward Asian in general and Taiwan in particular. Though there are only hints of a subconscious shift toward a China-centric Asian policy, even those hints are worrisome.

So far, the US continues to stress the central importance of Japan in Asia, but if there is any substance at all to hints of a “China-centric policy,” there will be huge change in Japan’s own Asian policy. Tokyo would have to set out on its own or become a junior ally of China.

The latter would be a very hard pill for Japanese to swallow.

More likely, Japan will become more nationalistic and militaristic. Going nuclear would be unavoidable if Japan wanted to maintain a balance of power with China. It’s difficult to imagine an Asian regional cooperative with China as the hegemon and Japan a junior partner.

This would trigger an Asian arms race involving Australia as a reluctant participant. Canberra could become Washington’s partner in the Asia-Pacific, just as it was during World War II.

Taiwan, with little power, would have to choose sides. I am not sure which side (Japan or China) the Taiwanese would choose, but either way it would become a vassal state and lose much of its independence — not a pretty picture.

Taiwan has to work hard to support Washington’s “Japan-centric Asian Policy,” emphasizing Taipei-Tokyo relations and the Taiwan-Japan-US alliance. Unfortunately, the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) isn’t inclined to do so.

It falls on Taiwanese, Taiwanese-Japanese and Taiwanese-Americans to try to influence these policies. It will be hard but not impossible.

Sebo Koh is a member of the Central Committee of the World United Formosans for Independence and the spokesman of World Taiwanese Congress.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2009/09/02

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