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Japan’s Taiwan Policy in New Era of Alliance Dilemma: Multidimensional Hedging
The Korean Journal of International Studies 21-3 (December 2023), 471-499
Published online December 31, 2023
© 2023 The Korean Association of International Studies.

Ying Ying and Seong-ho Sheen  [Bio-Data]
Received August 26, 2023; Revised October 19, 2023; Accepted December 5, 2023.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Despite being an important player, Japan has long been underestimated in heavily US-China-centric studies on the Taiwan Strait issue. Japan’s Taiwan policy is commonly considered subordinate to the US Taiwan policy. This research argues that Japan is not simply following the United States, but that its Taiwan policy and Taiwan Strait strategy encompasses important considerations related to national strategy. A new perspective of alliance management is adopted to explain the evolution of Japan’s Taiwan policy. It is found that Japan has been taking advantage of the Taiwan Strait issue to maintain the alliance, achieve normalization, and wield larger influence in Asia and the world.
Keywords : Taiwan, Japan, US-Japan alliance, China, National strategy, Hedging

Historically, even though the Taiwan Strait issue may not be a decisive factor in the US-China relations, it is undoubtedly one of the issues that both sides cannot afford to look light upon. Since the entry of the 21st century, the Taiwan Strait issue has become more and more critical and sensitive and may be the very fuse that could lead China and the United States into a potential war. While currently there is no further escalations in the Taiwan strait and there seems to be no imminent threat of an armed conflict, the status quo is based on China’s core interests being undermined and the balance is vulnerable to rapid collapse due to changes by any one party. The situation in Taiwan Strait becomes a major concern not only for China and the U.S. but for all countries in the region.

However, in current days, when talking about the Taiwan Strait issue, people naturally see it in the whole picture of the US-China rivalry. Yet one of the consequences of focusing too much on the US-China big-power competition is that people often overlook another important player, Japan, in the Taiwan Strait issue. This research would like to focus on Japan’s Taiwan policy and practices in the Taiwan Strait because their strategic nature has been seriously underestimated during the past decades. In addition, considering that Japan was once the colonist that ruled Taiwan for five decades, Japan has undoubtedly left a lasting legacy on Taiwan. Moreover, the Taiwan Strait issue has also long been arousing broad attention from academia. China, the United States, Taiwan, and Japan are the four major research subjects on this topic and they have constructed a basic framework or structure where each party interacts and has an impact on one another (Sang, 2019). To be specific, it is commonly received that the core of this interaction structure is centered on the direct stakeholders, mainland China and Taiwan. And the United States, the strongest country among the four and the most influential external party in the Taiwan Strait, plays a significant role in changing the course of the issue and can have an impact on the core constantly, especially on Taiwan. Japan, despite being one of the original causes of the cross-strait separation, now plays only a marginal role in this structure but still tries to make a difference by engaging and influencing US strategy.

Probably because most scholars consider the limited role of Japan as a relatively weak power in the development and resolution of the Taiwan Strait issue, the strategy and potential influence of Japan in the contemporary Taiwan Strait issue is often underestimated in the heavily US-China-centric studies. Even in those few studies that focus on Japan’s policy towards Taiwan itself put too much attention on the characteristics of different terms of cabinets. In other words, they tend to concentrate on “trait explanations” and lack systematic and long-term studies of post-war Japanese policies and strategies on Taiwan related issues.

There are a few scholars trying to explore Japan’s role in the Taiwan Strait issue actually, but Japan is normally seen as a subordinate and participant in the US policy toward Taiwan. Among those opinions, Japanese scholar Soeya Yoshihide argued in his article “Taiwan in Japan’s security consideration” that Japan’s post-war Taiwan policy was not a result of thoughtful consideration of its security priorities, but rather a default choice. Yoshihide believes that Japan does not have an independent strategy toward Taiwan and cannot play a role in the Taiwan strait issue comparable to that of the other three important players, which is the very point this research is intended to refute.

Meanwhile, there are more general discussions of Japan’s alliance strategy amidst US-China rivalry. Heginbotham and Samuels (2002) identify Japan’s security strategy as one of “double hedging”. On the one hand, Japan formed an alliance with the United States and has been relying on the U.S. against security threats in the region. On the other hand, it opens doors to other potential partners, even those who might be identified by the U.S. as threats, for economic benefits. Yasuhiro Matsuda (2012) also argues that the perception of China as a threat has directed Japan to adopt an approach of engagement and hedging. While strengthening alliance with the United States and making China compliant to “rules”, it is equally important for Japan to attract cooperation of China. Although Matsuda admits that Japan has not yet developed a hedging strategy on the national strategy level, he calls for a multilayered, multilateral framework beyond political perspective, which is a prototype for the idea of multidimensional hedging. Multidimensional hedging in this research will be defined as a strategy that includes risk aversion, interest objectives, and multiple instruments with certain offsetting effects in different arenas.

There is no doubt that post-war Japan was incapable of determining its foreign policy with full independence and had to follow the US regional strategy to a certain extent, which resulted in an obvious follow-through nature in its Taiwan policy and makes it difficult to analyze Japan’s true stance and intention on this issue. But it is worthy of attention that this does not mean that Japan’s following behavior on Taiwan-related policy during this period was contradictory to its true position or what it believed to be the wise strategy to maximize its interests.

Based on that, this research is intended to address the imbalance in the study from an angle of “Taiwan in Japan’s national Strategy” instead of the US-China factors in Japan’s policy adjustments. It will start with the assumption that Japan’s Taiwan policy is built on the strategic perception of Taiwan strait derived from Japan’s insight of the surrounding environment and its domestic situations and lessons learned throughout history. After examining the evolution of Japan’s strategic perception of Taiwan strait and the historical changes in Japan’s Taiwan policy, this paper posits that there is a multidimensional hedging strategy inherent in Japan’s Taiwan policy and that Japan has been doing so in an effort to meet the challenge of new era of alliance dilemma amidst intensifying US-China rivalry.


Japan’s Security and Economic Interest in Taiwan

When people talk about the importance of Taiwan, geopolitics is a prerequisite on which a consensus has been reached among scholars in the research on Taiwan (Emmers, 2009; Lim, 2009; Ye, 2018; Lasater, 2021). Geographically, Taiwan is not only of vital strategic importance to Asian countries like China and Japan, but for the United States, and it is also a focal point for disputes arising from the three countries’ opposing strategic goals. This is, somehow, the fundamental reason for China’s uncompromising defence of sovereignty and territorial integrity, and equally the underlying cause of the constant intervention from the U.S. and Japan in the Taiwan issue.

As an important island in the Western Pacific Ocean, Taiwan is a bastion for maritime powers as it controls important strategic places such as the Taiwan Strait and the Bashi Channel and is one of the most important hubs for maritime traffic connecting Southeast and Northeast Asia, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, the location and shape of Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait has given it an even more sophisticated strategic significance. US general Douglas MacArthur once made an analogy of Taiwan as the “unsinkable aircraft carrier”1 and there is countless references to Taiwan as a “pivot” in the Pacific in coverage and commentary.

The Japanese government had realized the value of Taiwan to Japan more than a hundred years ago when it first formulated an ambitious vision of the world. Historically, Japan has centered its foreign policy on geographically proximate, resource-rich, and strategically significant neighbors, which could date back to the formation of Japan’s national strategy after the Meiji Restoration. In document submitted to the foreign minister in 1891 by Yamagata Aritomo, the prime minister of Japan at that time, the term “Line of Interest”2 succinctly summarized the importance of the neighboring countries and underscored that in order to maintain national independence, it was not enough to guard the sovereignty line, but that constant attention must be paid to the defence of the neighboring areas with which Japan had close ties “to ensure that they become [Japan’s] sphere of influence”.3

This strategic guideline set the tone for Japan’s expansionist foreign policy for the next century. Soon after the establishment of the Meiji regime, the Japanese government embarked on a systematic process of foreign expansion. From the Kuril Islands, the Korea Peninsula, to China and the Ryukyu Islands, Japan employed a variety of methods, both diplomatically and militarily, to bring under its control those countries and regions in its immediate vicinity that were considered to be important to its security and had the potential to expand its sphere of influence.

Taiwan has a unique significance in this context. On the one hand, Taiwan was part of China, which up to that time had been the country with the greatest international influence in Asia and a long-standing model to Japan, and the conquest of China had been a constant ambition of Japan since the Meiji era. On the other hand, situated across the sea from mainland China and bordering the Ryukyu Islands to the northeast, Taiwan provided the best entry point for Japan to divide and conquer China. In 1872, Japan unilaterally declared the abolition of the Ryukyu Kingdom and the establishment of Ryukyu Prefecture, and only a year later, the Japanese government sent an envoy to the Qing Empire to negotiate the Taiwan issue, denouncing the Qing government for the murder of Ryukyu natives by the indigenous inhabitants of Taiwan. When the Qing official suggested that the Ryukyu islanders were not Japanese nationals, the Japanese envoy retorted by claiming: “Now that Japan had the great Restoration, there should be no one who is not one of its people... What is the harm in calling the Ryukyu people ours? I would like to ask your officials what you are going to do with the natives who have committed atrocities.”4

The intention of Japan’s request was to force the Qing government to acknowledge its possession of the Ryukyus and to create a pretext for its further intervention in Taiwan. In April 1874, Japan set up the “Taiwan Indigenous Affairs Bureau” together with the “Outline of the Treatment of Indigenous People in Taiwan”. The Outline stated that “the indigenous tribes of Taiwan are beyond the reach of the Qing government and thus It is the duty of the Japanese Government to take revenge for the murder of our people, the Ryukyu people”. It also took the opportunity to send six people to Taiwan to “reconnoiter the terrain”.5 In May 1874, Japan launched its first war against Taiwan, which ended in failure due to a lack of preparation and strong opposition from the Qing Empire. 20 years later, Japan started the Sino-Japanese War, which led to the Qing government ceding Taiwan and a protracted and traumatic colonial history.

During the fifty years when Taiwan was a Japanese colony, the Japanese colonial government erected an authoritarian governorship along with a strict police network that kept the Taiwanese population and their economic lifelines under control. The so-called “imperialization campaign[The Kominka Movement]”, which forbade the use of the Chinese language, the performance of Chinese opera, and any other Chinese-related cultural activities, was an attempt by the Japanese to integrate Taiwan for effective control of its ideologies. The Taiwanese were also forced to adopt Japanese names so as to be Japanese “Komin[皇⺠]”

By the time of the 1930s, Japan had built up a “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” that was well suited to securing its political and economic interests in East Asia with its superior military power and the wealth and resources it had captured in China. Taiwan, the most geographically and strategically crucial island in Japan’s southern route, not only provided markets and resources but also played an irreplaceable role in defence as Japan’s most important military base in the Pacific.

When World War II ended with Japan’s defeat, Japan declared its unconditional surrender by signing the Cairo Declaration and accepting the Potsdam Proclamation’s Armistice, formally handing over sovereignty over Taiwan and the Pescadores.

Yet until now, the importance of Taiwan to Japan remains unchanged, as reflected in the close economic ties between Japan and Taiwan that remain a legacy of Japanese rule in Taiwan. During its 50-year colonial history, Taiwan developed a typically exploitative colonial economy, specializing in the production of sugar, salt, rice, palm oil, sulfur, timber, and other war and subsistence resources for Japan. Even after its freedom, Taiwan’s economic development never managed to fully break away from the colonial economy. Instead, it adapted to a dependent economic development model due to the lingering Japanese effects and reconnection of the Japanese economic and political forces to the island, the most typical manifestation of which was the extensive network of Japanese Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) industries in Taiwan. For example, until 1990s, more than 60% of Taiwan’s IT industry is under OEM production by Japanese-owned enterprises, which rely heavily on imports from Japan for their core technologies and key components.

The complementary economic relations between Taiwan and Japan directly reinforce their dependency on each other. And history records that when political and economic conflicts and rivalries between Japan and its neighbors, especially with mainland China, intensify, the greater the economic dependence of Taiwan and Japan, and the closer the relationship between the two economies. Since the beginning of the 21st century, economic and trade exchanges between Japan and Taiwan have been more vibrant and the scale continues to expand. In 2001, the bilateral trade between Japan and Taiwan totaled approximately 4,665 billion yen, and in 2022 the figure has reached 11,955 billion yen, almost tripled (Trade Statistic of Japan, Ministry of Finance, 2001&2022). As for 2022, Taiwan is Japan’s NO.4 trading partner, and Japan is also one of Taiwan’s most important sources of investment and imports.

Owing to Taiwan’s special strategic position, its close political and economic ties with Japan and their complex historical sentiments, in conjunction with Japan’s geopolitical considerations of competing with China for regional leadership, mainstream Japanese society is more optimistic about maintaining the separation of the Taiwan Strait and has developed the following four representative views on the Taiwan strait issue: 1)“Unresolved Status of Taiwan”, 2) “Taiwan as Japan’s Lifeline”, 3) “Peaceful Independence of Taiwan”, 4) “Alliance of Marine States”

Supporters of the “Uncertain Status of Taiwan” advocates that the San Francisco Peace Treaty and contents related to Taiwan should be taken as the legal basis for identifying the sovereignty of Taiwan, which declared the renouncement of Japan’s dominance over Taiwan, but did not specify the ownership. It denied from a juridical perspective that Taiwan is part of China and is one of the statements on Taiwan’s independence supported by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and recently strongly advocated in Taiwan. Shoichi Kuriyama, former Japanese Ambassador to the United States and Japanese Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, was the first to argue that a distinction should be made between “legal judgments” and “political judgments” on the issue of Taiwan’s belonging. He claimed that “accepting” the People’s Republic of China’s position that Taiwan is an integral part of its territory would mean making an arbitrary determination of Taiwan’s belonging and denying the San Francisco Treaty, and that Japan is not legally entitled to comment on the question of Taiwan’s belonging as a Treaty signatory.

The majority of the Lifeline theory’s supporters are usually geopolitical realists. An avid advocate of this idea was Hiramatsu Shigeo, a former director of the Military Research Institute of Japan and a professor at Kyorin University. He warned that if Taiwan and the mainland ever unite, China will be able to control key sea routes for Japan, such as the Taiwan Strait and the Bashi Channel, hence strangling Japan’s maritime lifeline. Those who share such opinions are often sensitive to China’s maritime activities and supportive of providing military assistance to Taiwan in case of any contingency occurring in the Taiwan strait.

In contrast to gaining independence by force, advocates of peaceful independence for Taiwan seek a de facto independence that is based on the recognition of the international community. Proponents of this ideology contend that Taiwan will obtain worldwide recognition if it fulfills its duties and commitments to the international community. Uchida Katsuhisa, the former director of the Exchange Association’s office in Taipei, believes that the world will eventually accept Taiwan’s achievements and power as a “state” and recognize Taiwan’s “peaceful independence”. Based on similar arguments, adherents of the peaceful independence are often enthusiastic about supporting Taiwan’s “international space”. Some even proposed that China should take the initiative to nominate Taiwan for membership of the United Nations.

The fourth idea intends to link Japan and Taiwan closely through an alliance because of their similar geographical characteristics and external situations. Its core arguments come from Heita Kawakatsu’s ﹤Theory of Maritime Federalism (海洋連邦論, 2001)﹥. According to Heita Kawakatsu, a former professor at Waseda University and the Kyoto International Centre for Japanese Cultural Studies, it is crucial to establish a Japan-led Maritime Consortium in Asia that includes Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southeast Asian countries in order to confront an expanding China. Together with the other three viewpoints, these ideas on Taiwan and the status of the Taiwan Strait are vigorously debated in both political and public opinion circles in Japan, which exemplifies Taiwan’s value to Japan from a different angle.

As mentioned earlier, Japan has long referred to Taiwan as its “lifeline”, meaning that Taiwan is seen not only as an important barrier to Japan’s maritime security but also as a vital source and guarantee of Japan’s economic interests. For Japan, the implementation of China’s Maritime Police Law on 1 February 2021 clearly endangers Japan’s maritime lifelines in the South China Sea and East China Sea and makes Japan feel threatened. This is the reason why the Japanese government, especially senior officials, according to pertinent researchers, have recently made frequent allusions or even direct references to “security in the Taiwan Strait”.6

Japan’s Anxiety over Taiwan in US-China Rivalry

As China and the United States normalize and intensify big-power rivalry in the Asia-Pacific region, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the United States is stepping up its use of the “Taiwan card” to stifle China’s growth and reunification, which sparked more radical resistance in China. Due to this heightened competitiveness, there also have been some changes in the relationship between the U.S. and its allies in the Asia-Pacific area. Caught between the two great powers, Asia-Pacific countries have been having a hard time simply balancing or bandwagoing but have had to hedge or insure against the high level of uncertainty in the Taiwan Strait created by the two countries in order to prevent collateral losses or maximize gains, and their Taiwan Strait policies have been subject to greater pressure than before.

The US-Japan Security Consultative Committee (“2+2”) Meeting has uncharacteristically discussed the Taiwan issue in March 2021. After the meeting, a joint statement was issued specifically emphasizing the “importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”,7 which was commonly taken by the Japanese media as an implication that the meeting addressed the issue of joint defence of Taiwan by Japan and the United States in case of armed conflict in the Taiwan Strait. The situation in the Taiwan Strait was discussed several times in other official meetings as well. On the same day as the US-Japan 2+2 meeting, Japan’s defence Secretary Nobuo Kishi and US defence Secretary Lloyd Austin had a bilateral meeting in which both sides agreed to cooperate closely in unexpected incidents in the Taiwan Strait. In addition, Japan also made similar references to the Taiwan Strait in the joint statement or announcement at the following G7 summit and NATO summit.

The outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian War played as a siren to Japan. Takako Hikotani, a professor at Gakushuin University International Center wrote that “the war in Ukraine has led to the realization that they cannot take their own security for granted.”8 There is already a consensus in Japan that there are increasing signs that mainland China is accelerating its military activities in the Taiwan Strait and making increasing deterrent moves, so the likelihood of a military crisis breaking out in the Taiwan Strait is higher than it has been in decades.

In July 2021, Japan’s defence White Paper 2021 for the first time separates Taiwan from the US-China relationship section and discusses it in parallel. It also uses sentences like “stabilizing the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for Japan’s security and the stability of the international community”9. Although Japan did not directly write that it would support Taiwan militarily, the White Paper said, Japan and the U.S. need to send deterrent and warning signals at the prospect of military “crisis” involving Taiwan.

Japan is a very typical example of a “victim” in the uncertainty in the Taiwan Strait. On the one hand, as the most important ally of the United States in Asia, Japan needs to cooperate with the U.S. to “contain China with Taiwan” in accordance with the traditional US-led model. However, the rising power and influence of China in Asia have put Japan, which is closely linked to China in economic and geopolitical terms, in a position to intervene more cautiously in the Taiwan Strait to avoid inviting trouble. Japan’s sense of insecurity has also been exacerbated by the occasional aggressive US actions in the Taiwan Strait and the tough position taken by the Chinese government to fulfill reunification. The growing gap in the combined power of the U.S. and Japan, coupled with the difference in geographic location from China, has led to a discrepancy in the perception of security threats and risks in the Taiwan Strait between Japan and the United States, with Japan clearly having a higher risk during an unexpected event in the Taiwan Strait than the latter.


Taiwan as a Test for Alliance Loyalty

Alliance loyalty may serve as a valid explanation Japan’s general commitment to and backing of the US Asian policy on the Taiwan issue, especially in the early post-war years when the alliance was just formed. Zhang (2018) proposed Taiwan issue is a strategic indicator for the U.S. to test Japan’s loyalty to the alliance. Despite still being on the relatively inferior side, Japan has begun to explore ways and means of promoting alliance management and resolving alliance dilemmas, and the Taiwan issue. Michael Armacost, a senior American diplomat at the time, acknowledged that the U.S. could no longer count on Japan to be as diplomatically obedient as it was in the past. If the U.S. and Japan pursue different policies toward North Korea, China, or Taiwan, it would have negative effects on the bilateral relationship and it seemed unlikely that the US-Japan alliance will be maintained, and “termination of the alliance would raise new questions about Japan’s future strategic posture, scarcely an advantage for a status quo power like the United States.”10

Hence, at a time of major changes and a redefining of the US-Japan security system, the Taiwan problem is an essential instrument and one of the focal points for preserving alliance relations for both countries and especially for Japan as it presented a perfect opportunity to use the Taiwan issue as leverage in the alliance. Whenever the United States needed new assurances from Japan about the loyalty of the alliance, Japan responded positively to and supported the US position on the Taiwan issue. 27 August 2021 saw the first “2 + 2” dialogue between Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), focusing specifically on security issues, with both sides claiming that they should cooperate to “deter China” in terms of defence and security. In this regard, Lomanov, deputy director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explicitly criticized that Japan’s “Taiwan card” is a political order from the United States and that Tokyo is attempting to show its loyalty to Washington by doing so.11

However, an important but often overlooked fact is that loyalty is mutual, just as the subject of interdependence is always both parties. In other words, the U.S. also needs to demonstrate its loyalty or credibility to ensure Japan’s participation. According to Tucker and Glaser (2011), if the United States were to abandon Taiwan in a conflict with China, it could trigger “a fatal blow to the US-Japan alliance,” and in a more pessimistic scenario, could cause lead South Korea to align with Beijing.12 Henry (2020) also reflected in his paper that the Taiwan issue could be an example of how beliefs about loyalty and alliance interdependence could effectively influence the policy. In Henry’s (2020) reinterpretation of alliance interdependence, “observed reliability―not innate loyalty―is what states want from allies.”13 That is, whether an ally is reliable should be tested and observed with events or incidents, and an ally can be regarded as unreliable if it poses risks of abandonment or entrapment, which refer to the “alliance dilemma”

More importantly, because of the past “Japan Passing”, Japan already believed that the U.S. had posed a threat of “abandonment”. As a result, the U.S. needed to strengthen its reliability through the Taiwan issue, which is crucial to the security cooperation between the U.S. and Japan, to guarantee that Japan continues to view it as reliable. Japan knows it well and has been trying to exploit such mentality with the Taiwan issue to justify the continuation of the alliance and to guarantee Japan’s growing weight in it. Because for Japan, taking a cheap ride on the US-Japan security system and flexibly utilizing the US alliance commitment not only enable it to concentrate on developing the domestic economy but also help it to deal with the threat of the surrounding socialist countries and ensure the security of the adjacent seas with minimal loss.14

The Evolution of US-Japan Security Cooperation over Taiwan

With the conclusion of the US-Japan Security Treaty in 1951 and its revision in 1960, Japan and the United States established a security mechanism in East Asia, and the Taiwan Strait was one of the focal points of concern for both countries. But the collective self-defence agreement negotiated by the U.S. in early 1951 had no direct relevance to Taiwan, and as a prototype of the US-Japan Security Treaty, it authorized US forces to be based in Japan within an operational area that included Japan and the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. proposed an adjustment to the original scope of operations to include the “Far East” later, including Taiwan, in view of the Korean War’s expansion and future China’s containment. According to the report of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of 19 April, the United States’ delimitation of the “Far East” was based on three war scenarios, one of which was a unilateral US operation to defend Taiwan, and the Japan-based US deployment to the “Far East” was to include mainland China and Taiwan, the Korean peninsula, and the Indochinese peninsula. In his presentation on 1 October 1949, Charles A. Willoughby, Chief of Intelligence at Allied Headquarters, underlined that if the new China captured Taiwan, it could control the sea route from the Malay Peninsula to Japan and threaten the Philippines and the Ryukyus, which would not only deprive the United States of a strategic air base but also Japan of a food supply.15 The summary reflects the significance that the United States attached to the situation in the Taiwan Strait and to Taiwan’s strategic position at the time.

By adding the term Far East to the 1951 US-Japan Security Treaty, the U.S. effectively established a preliminary structure for operational cooperation with Japan in case of a contingency in the Taiwan Strait. In other words, Japan was expected to act as a forward base for US forces and play a logistical supply role whenever a war involving the United States occurred in the “Far East”, which made Japan a direct participant in the Taiwan Strait contingency and set the stage for its role in events in the Taiwan Strait for decades to come. The new US-Japan Security Treaty was signed in Washington in 1960, with Article VI remaining in relation to the “Far East”. The retention of the term “Far East” meant that, for Japan, it was still obliged to the U.S. for military defence cooperation in the Far East. Although the scope of the “Far East” was not clearly defined either in the old or the new US-Japan Security Treaties, which was mainly to enhance the applicability of the term to different situations with ambiguity, the Japanese government’s official view of the scope of the “Far East” can be found in a public statement made by Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi on 26 February 1960. From the Japanese standpoint, the “Far East” was the area north of the Philippines, in and around Japan, as well as areas under the control of Korea and the Republic of China.16 This is notable because it may imply that Taiwan’s importance in the US-Japan Security Treaty was possibly equal to that of Korea.

Japan’s role in the US intervention in the Taiwan Strait contingency was magnified after the 1969 Nixon-Eisaku Satō Joint Communiqué, in which the U.S. acquired maximum freedom to use military bases in Japan in exchange for the transfer of sovereignty over the Ryukyus, “particularly with respect to Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam.”17 Despite there were some disagreements, Japan made concessions to the U.S. in exchange for the return of the Ryukyus. In 1969 the U.S. and Japan agreed on equal treatment of Taiwan’s security and Korea’s security, and the U.S. even persuaded Japan to acknowledge that the security of the Taiwan region was the most important factor for Japan’s security.18

The Nixon Doctrine in the 1970s marked a global shift in US foreign policy, two aspects of which, closely related to Japan’s involvement in the Taiwan Strait, were sharing military spending and defence responsibilities with allies and improving relations with mainland China to contain the Soviet Union. Following the doctrine, the U.S. decreased the number of US troops in Japan in the 1970s and formulated with Japan The Guidelines for US-Japan defence Cooperation, which presented an opportunity for Japan to play a greater military role in Asia, as well as a dilemma of not overly enrage China in the Taiwan Strait issue.

The Guidelines included measures to be taken to ensure joint US-Japan military action in the event of a Far East contingency and guaranteed that Japan and the U.S. would consult with each other at any time when situations in the Far East had a significant impact on Japan’s security. Both countries would also conduct mutual studies in advance regarding Japan’s facilitation of US forces in any unexpected occasions.19 While the Taiwan Strait and the Korean Peninsula were not specifically included in the 1978 Guidelines, according to Michel Green, the U.S. was intended to make contingencies on Taiwan and the Korean Peninsula central to the discussion. This indicates that Japan should be more supportive of the U.S. if something happens in the Far East.20

The Taiwan Strait crisis of March 1996 accelerated the US-Japan study of the Taiwan Strait contingency and prompted the revision of the 1978 Guidelines. The study was accompanied by subsequent discussions between the U.S. and Japan on specific measures for defence cooperation in any unforeseen incidents in the Far East, signaling a greater and more tangible role for Japan in support of the U.S. in times of war and Japan’s deeper involvement in the Taiwan Strait issue. This trend continued into the 21st century, and became more evident as Sino-Japan relations deteriorated. In the 2005 Joint Statement, it was underscored that “ensur[ing] the security of Japan, strengthen peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and maintain the capability to address contingencies affecting the United States and Japan” and “encourag[ing] the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait through dialogue” are two of the regional strategic goals of the two countries,21 which was interpreted by some Chinese scholars that the U.S. and Japan and was making advance preparations for a military response to the Taiwan Strait contingency (Liu, 2013). Japan also initiated work in 2012 to revise the 1997 Guidelines, and against the backdrop of an intensified Diaoyu Island/Senkaku dispute, Japan’s intention and ability to intervene armed in the Taiwan issue became stronger.

It is well observed that Biden has basically inherited the concept and the main framework of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, of course in a more stable and predictable way, and put more emphasis on collective efforts with allied partners and regional multilateral organizations. Japan, as one of the most important ally of the United States, considers the Taiwan issue an important concern to the security of Japan and the maintenance of alliance.22

Japan’s intention to play a more active part in the Taiwan Strait has increased significantly since the Biden administration’s renewed Indo-Pacific strategy. It mainly took the form of frequent high-profile statements on the Taiwan Strait by the Japanese government and politicians, and regular discussions with the United States on matters related to military security in the Taiwan Strait. According to Wu Huaizhong (2021), a researcher at the Institute of Japanese Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Japanese attitudes to the Taiwan Strait issue indicate that Japan is making adjustments to its Taiwan-related policies. Japan is believed to be breaking with its traditional approach, which was based on the principle of not undermining fundamental bilateral relations between China and Japan, to establish itself as a major participant and player in the Taiwan issue and Taiwan Strait affairs.23

The former Japanese ambassador to the U.S. made it clear that “no matter if it is about the Senkaku or the Taiwan situation, the right order of consideration is first, what Japan can and should do, and then what the U.S. can do for Japan.”24 Gen Nakatani, Japan’s former defence minister, stated in an interview that Japan must bear the responsibility of any potential war where Hong Kong’s democracy and Taiwan’s independence would be endangered.25 Japan’s positive reaction on the Taiwan Strait issue managed to exchange for a clear statement from the U.S. that it “opposes any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands”26 and has led to further development of US-Japan military cooperation.

As Japan’s function in the US deterrence deployment and its responsibility and support to the U.S. in a possible Taiwan Strait crisis became more concrete, its involvement in the Taiwan issue further deepened and the crisis management mechanism of the US-Japan alliance in the Taiwan Strait gradually developed. The transformation of Japan’s domestic political, legal and public opinion environment also made possible the enhancement of Japan’s position and role in the joint deterrence of the US-Japan alliance in the Taiwan Strait. Meanwhile, the power base of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was gradually strengthened after Abe’s return to power in 2012. In 2016, the controversial Legislation for Peace and Security came into force, which lifted Japan’s right to collective self-defence and substantially increased Japan’s ability to support the US-Japan alliance.

Although Abe’s attempts to amend the constitution were not ultimately successful, the stability of the regime at that time was significantly improved compared to the 1990s, and the government’s ability to drive major decisions was significantly enhanced. In contrast to the previous image of a logistical supporter in the alliance, Japan has since then emphasized the division of duties between a “spearhead” and a “shield”. In other words, Japan wants to change the original ratio where offensive and deterrent capabilities were provided by the U.S. and direct defence was provided by the JSDF. In light of that, Japan has been more active in promoting the implementation of the “strike capability against enemy bases”, which has been legally incorporated into the scope of self-defence according to Gen Nakatani, and Japan aims to improve its strike capability by refining practical means and operational plans.27

The Japanese media also envisaged three possible scenarios in the Taiwan Strait based on the “Important Influence Situations”, “Survival-Threatening Situations”, and “Armed Attack Situations” stipulated in the Legislation for Peace and Security that came into effect in 2016, and Japan would determine the level of support that the Japanese Self-defence Forces should provide to the US forces based on different situations, ranging from providing logistical support to the US forces, exercising the right of collective self-defence and engaging in direct combat operations under the “right of individual self-defence”.28

Moreover, since the ship collision incident in 2010, public opinion in Japan related to the Chinese government began to take a direct turn for the worse. With the Japanese government emphasizing that China has been changing the status quo by force, the Japanese public also began to perceive China as a threat to Japan’s security, to the extent that confronting China became the primary goal of Japanese nationalism.29 On the contrary, there has been a significant increase in the Japanese public’s favorable opinion of the United States and the importance they attach to the US-Japan alliance. According to a Cabinet Office poll, the proportion of respondents who think highly of the US-Japan Security Treaty reached 81.2% in 2012, and 82.9% in 2015. Attitudes towards the situation in the Taiwan Strait have also changed, with 74% of Japanese respondents in favor of Japan’s involvement in maintaining stability in the Taiwan Strait, compared to only 13% who oppose such action, according to polling data from the Nikkei.30 The combination of the above factors provides a rational basis for Japan’s change of role in the Taiwan Strait crisis management mechanism and serves as a backstop for Japan to play a greater role within the alliance.

To sum up, over the years, the prominence of Taiwan and the urgency of the Taiwan Strait issue in the US-Japan security system have taken a great leap, and Japan has shown incremental initiative in the process, which suggests that Japan will have bigger influences in the future developments in the Taiwan Strait. By taking on more alliance obligations, revising its domestic legal system and strengthening its southwestern defence posture, Japan expects to have greater military functions in the US-Japan alliance and also make its Taiwan-related strategies more flexible and operational to deal with unexpected incidents in the Taiwan Strait. The evolution of the situation in the Taiwan Strait and Japan’s domestic political choices, however, will greatly influence Japan’s response and its participation in future confrontations in the Taiwan Strait.


New Alliance Dilemma Amidst US-China Rivalry

Walking into the 21st century, in the face of China’s rapid rise, both Japan and the United States have been interested in strengthening their alliance to deal with the new strategic rival, and strategic containment of China has become a bilateral alliance consensus. However, with the intensification of US-China rivalry in the Asia-Pacific region, the possibility of Japan being drawn into an overwhelming confrontation has multiplied. Japan, therefore, has gradually sought to fulfill its alliance obligations in a balanced way, avoiding offending the United States, and also trapping itself. It is quite easy to observe that Japan’s current strategy involves a kind of “double-betting”. Externally, Japan has recently shown a positive response to the US Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy and has shown extraordinary enthusiasm over the Taiwan issue, which can be interpreted as a pledge of loyalty to the United States. At the same time, Japan is also bolstering its standing among its Asian neighbors and stretching out to Southeast Asia and European countries in an attempt to establish a Japan-led regional mechanism and buffer potential risks of US abandonment.

Yet, a new alliance dilemma arises when economic factors are taken into account in the alliance security dilemma, a situation in which the alliance adversary is also a major economic partner. In contrast to the clear dichotomy between the roles of alliance rival and alliance economic partner during the Cold War, the dilemma of congruence between alliance counterpart and alliance economic partner is prevalent in the relationship between the US Asia-Pacific alliance system and mainland China nowadays. And it is particularly conspicuous in the US-Japan alliance, as mainland China has been Japan’s largest trading partner for years.

Japanese strategists have reflected on this new dilemma, arguing that Japan’s over-dependence on China in particular for its economic and political benefits will erode its strategic autonomy “by exposing it to the possibility of intersecting military and economic coercion in the region”. The United States is also aware of the challenges that China’s regional economic advantage could pose to alliance relations. Therefore, as an effort to tackle the dilemma of congruence, the U.S. has put much effort to develop the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which excludes China, to coordinate the interests and policies of the various alliance members economically, where the security implications are self-evident.

Taking into account the above-mentioned new variables, how do allies in asymmetric alliances respond to the new threats? In particular, how do non-powers, who are often overlooked and more vulnerable to danger, take measures to respond to the new alliance dilemma? Japan’s response in times of new threats falls into the category of hedging because it has been seeking to offset dangers or risks by pursuing various policy options that brings “mutually counteracting effects” under high uncertainties and great perils during the past decades, and particularly so after the Cold War when China rapidly rose and became the main opponent of the US-Japan alliance. Japan’s economic engagement with China in the context of US-China competition is more risk-reducing than lucrative and interest-oriented.

To explain, firstly, in order to secure a competitive edge over China, the relatively declining U.S. is expected to intensify its exploitation of the Japanese economy, pushing for unreasonable trade demands and requiring Japan to pay more for its protection. Secondly, the further development and growth of the Chinese economy will not only have a direct impact on Japan’s related competitive economic industries, but will also make Japan increasingly dependent on the Chinese economy, which is also considered an important economic risk by Japan. In addition, the high level of tension and turmoil in Sino-Japan relations stemming from excessive anger with mainland China and the contingency of the Taiwan Strait are more urgent security threats for Japan.

Therefore Japan’s engagement and sporadic goodwill towards China in the Taiwan Strait issue can be seen as hedging but not simply balancing both externally and internally. The following parts will analyze the changing role of Japan in the Taiwan related issues in the new era and Japan’s Taiwan Strait strategy in face of the new pattern of US-China Asia-Pacific rivalry.

Japan’s Strategy of Multidimensional Hedging

Along with the new alliance dilemma facing the US-Japan alliance and geographical proximity, Japan’s perception of risk in the Taiwan Strait has undergone a substantial surge. As argued by Van (2014), the high level of uncertainty and complexity in the political environment in Asia has fostered the formation of hedging strategies because states are uncertain of how rivalry between the United States and China will play out, as well as of other states’ intentions. Likewise, the new variables in the current situation in the Taiwan Strait provide sufficient impetus for Japan to opt for insist on a hedging strategy as it would not be willing to see itself exposed to bigger risks.

Although risk aversion is the primary motivation for taking measures in the face of risks or threats to the state, risks avoiding behavior is ultimately driven by the overriding aim of securing national interests and is therefore inseparable from the interest objectives. At a time of increased competition between the U.S. and China and heightened uncertainty in the Taiwan Strait, three major interests are at play in Japan’s adjustment of its policy.

First, economically, Japan hopes to pursue deeper economic penetration and influence in Taiwan through greater involvement in the Taiwan Strait, while still maintaining its economic ties with China and taking advantage of the opportunities for regional development brought about by China’s rise. Second, politically, Japan expects to rely on the US-Japan alliance’s Taiwan Strait management mechanism to strengthen relations with Taiwan and create conditions for expanding its influence in Asia, but it does not want to touch China’s “bottom line” and completely antagonize it. Last but not least, militarily, Japan wants to take advantage of the US-Japan military cooperation in the Taiwan Strait to pursue military modernization and “normalization”, including participation in multilateral security initiatives, yet on the on the other hand, it still holds concerns about being entrapped by the U.S. in an unaffordable war. Such opposing objectives of interest also justify Japan’s choice of hedging strategy.

Japan’s strategic choices in the Taiwan Strait at current stage also reflect the traits of multiple offsetting. Specifically, Japan has adopted a multidimensional hedging strategy that encompasses a set of multiple hedging instruments. Firstly, by fulfilling its alliance obligations through bargaining and engaging appropriately with China, Japan is avoiding over-dependence on the U.S. and seeking bigger autonomy on Taiwan Strait issues. Compared to the high-profile statements made by politicians and former government officials on the Taiwan issue and the situation in the Taiwan Strait, the official stance of the Japanese government seems to be much more moderate. Although the US-Japan Defence Cooperation Guidelines set out the obligations and responsibilities that both the U.S. and Japan should assume in response to contingencies in the Taiwan Strait, military operations have so far been limited to military exercises, and Japan has to date made no substantive moves that would pose a serious threat to China due to domestic legislation and concerns about entrapment as opposed to the increased US arms sales to Taiwan and its increased deployment of armies in Asia, which reveals the fact that Japan has not been as fully in step with the U.S. as it would have expected.

On the other hand, although Japan’s “One China” policy has evolved since the Cold War, Japan’s diplomatic relations with Beijing and Taipei are generally conducted under the basic “1972 structure”. While Pro-Taiwan forces in Japan have been pushing for a Japanese version of the “Taiwan Relations Act”, the Japanese government still somehow shows reservations and no substantive progress has been made on this proposal. With regard to Beijing, Japan has not yet abandoned its strategy of appropriate engagement. In addition to close economic contacts, high-level dialogue between the two countries has continued and there have been several talks between the two governments on the Taiwan issue. Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi recently met in Beijing and discussed key issues such as the Taiwan issue. The military ministries of China and Japan also recently made a direct phone line for a maritime and air liaison mechanism, which shows some positive signs. And according to the Chinese defence Ministry’s announcement, such dialogues would help to safeguard regional peace and stability. Similar behavior of Japan could be interpreted as reserving leeway in relations with China. In other words, Japan has increased its autonomy in terms of security in the Taiwan Strait by taking on limited alliance obligations, while reducing the risk of deeper involvement and military responsibility in the Taiwan Strait through appropriate engagement with China.

Second, Japan adheres to the overall US strategy of balancing China and expresses its firm loyalty to the U.S. on Taiwan-related issues as a gesture of goodwill for the alliance. When it comes to relations with Taiwan, “playing the edge ball” remains a common Japanese tactic. By deepening quasi-official contacts between Japan and Taiwan in the low-political sphere and gradually extending them into the high-political sphere, Japan is actually modulating and breaching the “One-China” principle in a progressive way, thereby checking and balancing China. On Taiwan-related issues in the US-Japanese security cooperation, Japan has closely mirrored the US position, repeatedly expressing security concerns about the Taiwan Strait through joint statements and joining the U.S. in accusing China of changing the status quo. This is partly a reflection of Japan’s need to counterbalance a rising China and partly a good way to show alliance loyalty to its ally.

In addition, Japan has actively contributed to Taiwan’s integration into the Indo-Pacific strategy in line with the deployment of US allies in Asia. Since 2016, Japan has sought to build a quasi-alliance between Japan and Taiwan through the launch of the quasi-official “Taiwan-Japan maritime cooperation dialogue” and make Taiwan an important component of the maritime security networks in the Indo-Pacific. Japan is also making efforts to cooperate with the United States in providing opportunities and platforms for the Taiwan authorities to participate in the Indo-Pacific Multilateral Security Dialogue. For example, in March 2018, Japan invited the Taiwan authorities to join the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) in Tokyo as a participant. In 2021, the U.S., Japan, and Taiwan even held a trilateral security dialogue. According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency, Abe remarked on this event that Taiwan, the United States, and Japan must spare no effort to develop in all areas such as undersea, airspace, cyber, and space, and that the three parties could consider sharing relevant knowledge and technology if necessary.

Third, as a non-big power participating in the Taiwan Strait issue alongside the other two great powers, China and the United States, Japan has been actively using economic pragmatism strategies to reduce its economic security risks and maximize its economic interests in the Taiwan Strait. One way of doing so is to promote the development of closer economic and trade relations between Japan and Taiwan, increasing its influence on the Taiwanese economy and strengthening its control over the Taiwanese economy through the remaining forces left over from history and the Pro-Japanese faction in Taiwan, in an attempt to turn Taiwan into a stabilizer of the Japanese economy and thus counteract the economic pressure from the United States and its excessive economic dependence on mainland China. Given the deterioration in cross-strait relations, Japan can also effectively fill the gap created by the setback in cross-strait economic and trade relations by exploiting some of the dividends to further reap economic benefits from Taiwan. In addition, maintaining good economic and trade connections with Taiwan has provided Japan with effective support in terms of supply chains, markets and raw materials. Especially at a time of intensifying technological competition between the U.S. and China, Japan is eager to strengthen its supply chain of important materials of the semiconductor industry with the help of Taiwan.

To this end, Japan has made great efforts to promote cooperation between Japan and Taiwan in chip production by investing in TSMC, which has the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturing technology and capabilities. To some extent, Taiwan has become a solid “economic ally” for Japan. At the same time, despite the impact of China’s economic development on Japan’s related competitive industries, and that Japan’s increasing dependence on the Chinese economy is considered an important economic risk, Japan has not abandoned its economic ties with mainland China.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan’s trade dependence on China has increased compared to the pre-pandemic period. China is now served as an important engine in driving Japan’s foreign trade and economic growth, as well as a large market to support Japan’s economic recovery. Coupled with the complementary industrial structures of the two countries and the investment of Japanese enterprises in China, strengthening economic and trade cooperation with China is a realistic necessity for the economic development of Japan. Confronted with the pandemic and the uncertainty it brings, the willingness of Japan to strengthen financial cooperation with China and promote regional economic integration has also been enhanced. In October 2021, the People’s Bank of China and the Bank of Japan renewed their currency swap agreement, with a size of RMB 200 billion/JPY 3,400 billion, valid for three years, which aims at maintaining financial stability and boosting economic development. Following the official activation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) in 2022, the channels for Sino-Japanese economic cooperation were expanded and it is promising to see a further strengthening of Sino-Japanese economic and trade relations.

Last but not least, Japan is currently exploring the construction of Japanese-led regional multilateral mechanisms to reduce its over-reliance on the US-led regional order and to enhance its strategic and economic autonomy. A distinctive feature of Japan’s diplomatic and security strategy in recent years can be reflected in its efforts to promote “quasi-alliance” relations with countries other than the U.S. and its system-building ambition in the Asia Pacific and around the world, which is an alternative to the US-Japan alliance that Japan can adopt due to constitutional limitations and historical reasons.31 This “quasi-alliance” is envisaged mainly in terms of cooperation with regional powers and middle powers, and more in terms of a “democratic alliance” for maritime security based on values.

With such a new diplomatic and security strategy, Japan’s practice can be understood as pursuing informal military alliances, where relevant countries have broad agreements and concrete measures in terms of threat definition and strategic consensus, security consultations, exchange of troop visits, and joint exercises. One of the targets of the Japanese quasi-alliance strategies is the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD). Since the first QUAD senior officials’ meeting in 2007, which was called for by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan has always had high expectations for it. With the relaunch of QUAD in 2017, Japan is playing a clear coordinating and bonding role to promote bilateral and multilateral defence cooperation. In order to build and consolidate the QUAD mechanism, Japan has also continued to promote Japan-Australia and Japan-India security cooperation relations, signing security agreements and Reciprocal Access Agreements (RAAs) for troops, and several trilateral dialogue and cooperation mechanisms (Japan-US-Australia, Japan-US-India, Japan-Australia-India) have been formed under the framework of the four countries.

Europe is another direction for Japan’s endeavor. In 2013, the Abe Cabinet positioned the European Union as an important strategic partner with “shared values and principles” in Japan’s first post-World War II National Security Strategy. For more than a decade, Japan has been working in various ways to enhance its security cooperation and policy communication with the EU, significantly raising the frequency of its contacts and high-level exchanges with the EU, while also using this relationship to promote its global policies. Japan and Europe have also signed a series of strategic or political documents. The Japan-Europe Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA), for example, which took effect in 2019, covers not only policy dialogue but also cooperation in addressing regional and global challenges. In particular, as the maritime security situation in India and Taiwan deteriorates, Japan and Europe are increasingly demonstrating their strategic intent to maintain a “rules-based” international order and to promote maritime security as a priority for military cooperation. Japan also has taken this opportunity to direct European countries to intervene in the South and East China Seas, relying on extra-territorial forces to carry out all-around cooperation to contain China.

A similar attempt was made with the Indo-Pacific Vision. Being aware that the U.S. is gradually shifting its attention to the Indian and Pacific oceans, Japan take advantage of the “Asia-Pacific rebalancing” strategy implemented by the Obama administration to actively shape and enrich the framework of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, hoping that Japan will play a more important role in the region. After Abe returned to power in 2012, he proposed the idea of a “Democratic Security Diamond”,32 calling on Japan, the United States, Australia, and India to jointly defend security and peace in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and to work on maritime security and counterbalance China, which is the prototype of the Japanese version of the “Indo-Pacific strategy”. It not only plays the role of supplementing and strengthening the US-Japan alliance but also contains an intention of building a Japan-led security cooperation network in the future, one less dependent on the United States. In 2016, Abe formally launched the vision of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” and actively promoted it on various diplomatic occasions in an attempt to receive wider recognition and get other countries to participate in the strategy. While Japan is certainly under no illusion that these “informal alliances” and regional cooperation mechanisms under Japanese lead can replace the U.S. as the pillar to Japan’s security, it undoubtedly sees it as an important reassurance option for its national security strategy and an effective complementary tool to counterbalance China.

To summarize, Japan’s practices in handling states’ relations relating to the Taiwan issue in recent years contains three necessary elements of hedging, namely risk aversion, interest objectives, and multiple instruments with certain offsetting effects. And taking into account that it is implementing such strategy with multiple combination of hedging instruments which covers all aspects of political and economic security, Japan’s strategy on the Taiwan Strait issue at current stage can be understood as one of Multidimensional Hedging.


Although Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait are topics of keen discussion among scholars of international relations, Japan has received insufficient attention or enough credit for its role as a significant actor in the Taiwan Strait. While some of the literature examines Japan’s Taiwan policy and its involvement in the Taiwan Strait issue, typically, Japan is considered to be a follower of US strategy and policy in the Taiwan Strait. Such studies focus on exploring the parallels and uniformity between Japan’s Taiwan policy and that of the US, viewing changes in the US Asian and global strategy as the independent variable of Japan’s Taiwan policy and its practices in the Taiwan Strait. This research argues that Japan is not simply following the strategy set by the United States, but that its Taiwan policy encompasses important considerations related to national strategy.

Japan’s Taiwan policy is not a choice by default, but rather a result of strategic consideration and that Japan’s policy towards Taiwan and its moves on issues related to the Taiwan Strait since World War II is not a simple copy paste of the US policy. Due to the asymmetrical nature of the US-Japan alliance, Japan’s foreign policy framework was tied to the US East Asia strategy and its Taiwan policy had a clear US imprint. The US-Japan military cooperation in the Taiwan Strait has long played a role in maintaining and deepening the alliance. Both countries see the Taiwan issue as an important opportunity to demonstrate loyalty as well as mutual reassurance. Yet, faced with a new alliance dilemma arising from the intensifying US-China rivalry, Japan is attempting to strike a balance between the US-Japan alliance, Sino-Japanese relations, and Japan’s broader vision of regional cooperation by using multidimensional hedging.


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