Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Sumihiko Kawamura

【#186】Enact Japan-Taiwan Relations Act Urgently

Sumihiko Kawamura / 2013.03.27 (Wed)


March 25, 2013


       On March 24, the Friends of Lee Teng Hui Association in Japan announced a policy proposal calling for enacting a “Basic Act for Japan-Taiwan Relations.” This was a very timely proposal in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's five new principles for Japanese diplomacy, including ensuring that the seas are governed by laws and rules.
       Japan, while lacking any law governing relations with Taiwan, have continued non-governmental bilateral relations in economic, social and cultural areas through the Japan Interchange Association controled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
       Meanwhile, the United States enacted the Taiwan Relations Act when severing diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979. Washington has thus had the legal ground for proceeding with its diplomacy with Taiwan by separating Taiwan from China.
       Seeking to obtain hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region, China has become the largest threat to peace and stability in East Asia. The Japan-U.S. alliance's cooperation with Taiwan is indispensable for deterring the threat since Taiwan is in the best location to check China's forceful maritime advancement.

Maritime freedom cannot be protected without Taiwan
       While Japan and Taiwan are in the same boat threatened by China, Japan has refrained from proactively being involved in or bearing responsibility for the Taiwan issue.
       Without any legal ground, security-related exchange between Japan and Taiwan cannot be implemented. In an extreme case where the Japanese government is very fearful of Chinese pressure, even the current limited exchange could be suspended. If Japan retains its irresponsible attitude, the bond of the Japan-U.S. alliance could weaken to the disadvantage of peace and stability in East Asia.
       In order to avoid such situation, Japan should enact a Basic Act for Japan-Taiwan Relations consistent with the U.S. policy of maintaining security and other relations with Taiwan under its Taiwan Relations Act.
       Prime Minister Abe has announced the five new diplomatic principles including ensuring that the seas are governed by laws and rules. The Abe Administration's basic foreign and security policy principle is that Japan should build on its alliance with the United States to cooperate with countries sharing values with Japan to deter China's self-righteous actions and secure peace and stability in East Asia.
       The five new principles, though failing to directly touch on Taiwan, are difficult for Japan to realize while neglecting Taiwan's presence. Therefore, the government should urgently enact the basic law which needs to include the following points:

Building comprehensive Japan-Taiwan relationship
1. As it has become very difficult to limit Japan's relations with Taiwan to economic, social and cultural areas, a law is required to legally and specifically define Taiwan's status and conduct comprehensive diplomacy with Taiwan.
2. In order to promote Japan's national interests and the Asia-Pacific region's stability and development, Japan and Taiwan should develop their relations under the principle of equality and mutual benefit based on common values, including freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law
3. Japan should declare that any attempt to use non-peaceful means to determine the future of Taiwan will pose a threat to peace and stability of Japan and the Asia-Pacific region and be a great matter of concern to Japan.
4. Japan will support U.S.-Taiwan relationship based on the Taiwan Relations Act and cooperate with Taiwan based on the Japan-U.S. alliance to secure the seas as a public good governed by law instead of might.

Sumihiko Kawamura is Retired Rear Admiral, JMSDF, Representative of the Kawamura Institute for Maritime Security Studies, and Guest Researcher of JINF