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Japan would play major supportive role in Taiwan crisis

Ex-Japanese military official says Japan's strategic location key to stopping Chinese attack

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Japanese navy ships. (Reuters photo)

Japanese navy ships. (Reuters photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Japan would likely play a key role in a Taiwan Strait conflict, similar to Poland in the Ukraine war, former Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (SDF) three-star lieutenant general Bansho Koichiro said on Thursday (Nov. 30).

Japan is the only country that can serve as the entryway for the world to send supplies to the Taiwanese during a Chinese invasion, Bansho told Nikkei Asia. Japan also needs to prepare for a wave of Taiwanese refugees and consider evacuee housing, quarantines, and weapons screening, he said.

However, Bansho said, "The greatest contribution Japan can make is to properly defend itself." He emphasized Japan's strategic location and its potential to thwart China’s invasion plan by fortifying defenses at major chokepoints in the region.

"China has nine exit points to the outer seas, and five of those are located in the Japanese archipelago," he said. These include the Tsugaru Straits, the Osumi Strait, the Yokoate Channel, the Miyako Strait, and the Yonaguni Channel, which is only 110 kilometers from Taiwan.

Japan would seek to levy costs on the enemy, Bansho said. "For instance, if mines were scattered in the waters, it would be a hassle to remove them. If anti-air defenses were deployed, it would be very difficult to establish air superiority."

However, the ex-lieutenant general stressed that Japan would not be sending troops to Taiwan. "The main areas of the SDF's activity will be in Japanese territory and perhaps international waters to protect Japanese ships," he said. "A scenario in which the SDF will go onto Taiwanese land and defend Taipei alongside the U.S., for instance, is not expected."

Since 2021, multiple Japanese lawmakers and government officials have said a Taiwan emergency would also be an emergency for Japan, including former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. In December 2021, it was revealed that the U.S. and Japan drafted a joint contingency plan in case of a Taiwan Strait conflict.

Japan has already ramped up the construction of military bases and stockpiling missiles on islands in Okinawa, including Ishigaki, Amami Oshima, and Miyakojima. In March, 570 Ground SDF troops were deployed to Ishigaki island.