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‘Taiwan and Japan are not friends, we are family members’: Deputy defense minister

Senior official claims fates of both countries intertwined as they face threat of China

Nakayama stands by before addressing the conference in Taipei on Sept. 8. (Taiwan News, Liam Gibson photo.)

Nakayama stands by before addressing the conference in Taipei on Sept. 8. (Taiwan News, Liam Gibson photo.)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Japan’s deputy minister for defense, Yasuhide Nakayama, made a surprise drop in via remote call to a conference on Japan-Taiwan relations held at the Chang Yung-fa Foundation in Taipei on Wednesday (Sept. 8).

The event, co-hosted by the Taiwan NextGen Foundation, the Taiwan Society of Japan Studies, and the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, showcased a line-up of scholars, think tankers, and legislators discussing trends in bilateral relations in the wake of the recent "2+2" meeting between leaders from Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Last month’s 2+2 virtual dialogue was named as such because it was attended by Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) and Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) of the DPP as well as Masahisa Sato and Taku Otsuka of Japan's LDP.

Nakayama said the fates of Japan and Taiwan are intertwined, likening their geographic closeness to the distance between the tip of the nose and the lips.

“People say we are like friends, but we are not, we are family,” he said from his Tokyo office to the audience gathered in the conference room.

US focus on East Asia

Nakayama said the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan signals Japan’s closest ally is planning to focus its resources on the Western Pacific in an effort to hold the line against Chinese aggression.

The LDP realizes the significance of this transition, he said, and so too should all peoples who live in East Asia.

Nakayama said the press freedoms in East Asian democracies make them vulnerable to new threats such as disinformation campaigns, propaganda operations, and cyberattacks. This means countries like Taiwan and Japan have to expand their cooperation to counter these new threats, he added.

Taiwan core to LDP agenda

The LDP, Japan’s ruling party, is currently holding elections in the run-up to choosing a new prime minister to take over after Yoshihide Suga stepped down last Friday (Sept. 3).

Nakayama said Taiwan is a key issue that is being discussed in deliberations among his fellow party members.

“The next leader’s approach toward the Taiwan issue will be a major factor in determining whether they’re fit for the job, no matter who they are,” he added.

Like father, like son

When Japan formalized relations with the People's Republic of China in 1972, there were five members of the Diet who stood resolutely against it until the end, Nakayama said. One of them was Masaaki Nakayama — Yasuhide’s father.

Nakayama said Japan today should reconsider whether this diplomatic arrangement with China really serves the nation's interests anymore, in light of the aggressive posture taken by China toward its neighbors.