Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

  • HOME
  • Speaking Out
  • 【#1148】Japanese Lawmakers Should Initiate Legislation to Enhance Relations with Taiwan
Yoichi Shimada

【#1148】Japanese Lawmakers Should Initiate Legislation to Enhance Relations with Taiwan

Yoichi Shimada / 2024.05.30 (Thu)

May 27, 2024

On May 20, the inauguration ceremony of Taiwan’s new President Lai Chingte took place in Taipei. Three people from the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, including me, were invited to attend the ceremony.

Japan’s suprapartisan parliamentary group to promote relations with Taiwan sent a 31-member delegation. This was the largest parliamentary delegation among countries that sent lawmakers to the ceremony. The stance of the lawmakers who participated in the ceremony without fearing a backlash from China is commendable. After the ceremony, President Lai expressed his gratitude by holding an exclusive luncheon for the Japanese parliamentary group.

However, the Taiwanese side has privately voiced dissatisfaction and irritation with Japanese politicians.

U.S. Congress leading Taiwan-related legislation

No U.S. lawmakers were seen at the ceremony. As presidential and other election campaigns heat up, they may be reluctant to take long flights to Taiwan. In the face of China’s growing threats, however, the U.S. Congress has steadily done the groundwork for U.S.-Taiwan security relationship through legislative actions as its own obligation.

First, the U.S. enacted the Taiwan Travel Act in March 2018. The key point of the act bearing a deliberately bland and innocuous name is to “allow officials at all levels of the United States Government, including Cabinet-level national security officials, general officers, and other executive branch officials, to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taiwanese counterparts.” The act thus officially endorses the exchange of visits between U.S. and Taiwanese military officials.

The act also calls for allowing “high-level officials of Taiwan to enter the U.S., under conditions which demonstrate appropriate respect for the dignity of such officials,” indicating that they may wear military uniforms and even display the Taiwanese national flag. To avoid any room for misunderstanding, it specifically notes that Taiwanese officials are allowed to “meet with officials of the United States, including officials from the Department of State and the Department of Defense and other Cabinet agencies.”

The Chinese side repeatedly intimidated that the U.S.-China relationship would cross the red line if this bill were passed. However, the Chinese intimidation met a backlash from U.S. political circle, encouraging both the House and Senate to unanimously approve the bill, which was signed into law by then President Donald Trump.

While the U.S. Congress is often marked by political strife, its unanimous action in times of crisis is admirable.

Furthermore, the U.S. enacted the Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act in late 2022, endorsing joint U.S.-Taiwan military exercises to enhance readiness for contingencies.

The Congress has thus taken the lead in taking necessary legislative actions to strengthen the U.S.’ deterrence against China. The problem is with the Japanese parliament.

Taiwan discontent with Japan’s parliamentary diplomacy

The late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized the need for a sense of ownership to his fellow lawmakers, saying that a Taiwan contingency is a Japan contingency and a Japan-US alliance contingency. However, Japanese politicians have largely remained inactive.

Taiwan’s grievances are related to this point. Japanese lawmakers visit Taiwan to ask for a meeting with the president of the time and have two-shot photos taken for political advertising. When they discuss a contingency, they talk only about how to flee, or quickly evacuate Japanese residents in Taiwan. And they are relentless in discussing business, such as the sale of railcars.

People close to Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party have repeatedly requested the Japanese parliamentary group to legislate a Japanese version of the Taiwan Travel Act. As the Prime Minister’s Office and Japan’s Foreign Ministry care much about Beijing and cannot possibly propose such legislation, lawmakers have no choice but to take initiative. It is politically shameful for Japanese and Taiwanese military officials to have to meet out of the public eye.

Yoichi Shimada is a councillor and a Planning Committee member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and a professor emeritus at Fukui Prefectural University.