Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Defense of Taiwan
-a Test for the U.S. Alliance System in the West Pacific-
KAWATO Akio / Former Japanese ambassador to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Columnist at Japanese “Newsweek”

February 25, 2020
Early in January I went to Taiwan for the first time after more than ten years of interval. The economy is highly developed and the society is liberal just as ten years ago. However, Taiwan is now being caught up by China in terms of the standard of life. Furthermore, her economic model now faces a turning point; huge electronic manufacturers like TSCM (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd.)1 and Hon Hai-Foxconn Technology Group2, which have been thriving in tandem with the U.S. and China, are now pressed by the U.S. to reconsider their ties with Chinese partners, and the drastic fall in the number of Chinese tourists, which is a “punishment” to the current independence-oriented Tsai government, is bringing down her economy. I found that a new grandiose hotel in Kaohsiung, a major city in the south went into bankruptcy because of this.

Nevertheless, even a tour guide told me, “I am rather poor. And yet I prefer the freedom in our society to the economic benefits which China may bring to us. So, although I am non-partisan, I will vote for the Democratic Progressive Party3.” Reflecting such voice, Prof. Tsai Ing-wen was reelected in mid-January as President of Taiwan for another four years. She is an advocate of moderate independence, which means abstaining from a formal declaration of independence while maintaining an effective statehood, which is free, democratic and market-oriented. The combination of wide-spread adherence to democracy and the political wisdom of self-restraint is very encouraging, and should help elicit support from foreign observers.

Is Taiwan defendable?

However, is Taiwan defendable from a military point of view? My intuitive answer is “50 to 50”. The Taiwanese military bastions on small islands (Penghu Islands et al.) in Taiwan Strait may cause trouble for Chinese naval operation at the initial stage of a conflict, but once the Chinese navy reaches the western coast of Taiwan, the flat terrain in the western half of Taiwan will offer an easy place for land-force operation. I travelled from Kaohsiung to Taipei by train, observing the topography for 300 km.

A problem for possible Chinese intrusion is that Taipei is surrounded by mountains and hills, which makes land-force operation difficult. But if the Chinese navy blockades the sea port Keelung, the entrance to Taipei, the city of three million population will not hold even a month.4 The sea there is shallow, so submarines cannot operate against the Chinese navy. Only land-to-sea missiles, surface battleships and air force will be able to restrain the Chinese navy off the shore of Keelung.

In case of a Chinese military onslaught the U.S. armed forces would have intervened in the past (it really did so in 1996), but President Trump may well avoid a military clash with China. And his hesitation will shake the U.S. alliance system in the West Pacific; Japan, South Korea and others, for fear of being abandoned by the U.S. in case of emergency, will either endeavor to build up their own armaments including nuclear weapons or succumb to the Chinese might to become part of her commonwealth.

On the other hand, if the U.S. decides to militarily help Taiwan, she may face lukewarm attitudes of the Japanese and South-Korean governments. These two countries may not want to provoke China so as to avoid attacks on the U.S. bases in their own countries. In this case the U.S. navy will be forced to fight on its own without logistical support from Japan and South Korea.

In either case the efficacy of the U.S. alliance system in the West Pacific will be seriously questioned. The best solution, therefore, would be the further strengthening of the Taiwanese armed forces, inter alia fighter planes and short-range missiles.

Akio Kawato is a former Japanese ambassador to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and currently is a columnist at Japanese “Newsweek”.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

河東 哲夫 / 元在ウズベキスタン・タジキスタン大使、日本版Newsweekコラムニスト

2020年 2月 25日

1月初め、10数年ぶりに台湾に行ってきた。当時既に、台湾は経済的には先進国となり、社会も自由であった。しかし今、生活水準の面では中国が台湾に追いつきつつある。しかも台湾のこれまでの経済の在り方は、現在岐路にさしかかっているのである。つまり、TSCM や鴻海・Foxconn のような電子部門の企業は米国と中国の双方を利用して巨大化したのだが、現在米国からは中国企業との関係を再考するよう圧力を受けている。そして中国が、台湾独立に傾く民進党の蔡英文政権への懲罰として中国からの観光客の数を大きく減らしたため、台湾経済は打撃を受けている。今回自分の行った高雄では、真新しい壮大なホテルが中国観光客激減のために倒産していた。

そのような状況にあっても、ある観光ガイドは筆者に言った。「私はあまり豊かでもないのですが、中国と関係を良くすれば経済的利益があるといくら言われても、今の自由さがある方がましです。だから、私はどの政党も好きではないのですが、今回は民進党 に投票します」。このような市民の声を背景として、蔡英文女史は1月11日の総統選挙で再任され、4年の任期を務めることになった。同女史は穏健独立派、つまり正式な独立宣言は避けるものの、自由と民主主義、そして市場経済に基づく独自の国家的な存在を維持する立場を掲げている。社会には民主主義への支持が行き渡り、政治家は賢い自己抑制を維持している――このような姿は外国人に好感を与え、台湾を助けてあげたいという気にさせる。


しかし、台湾は軍事的に見て、防衛可能なのだろうか? 筆者の直感では50:50というところである。台湾海峡の澎湖諸島等にある台湾軍の要塞は、中国海軍の渡海作戦を初期段階では阻止できるだろうが、中国軍が一旦台湾の西海岸に到達してしまえば、台湾の西半分は平野なので、陸軍の進軍は容易であろう。筆者は今回、高雄から台北までの約300キロ間を列車で旅行して、地形を観察したのである。

中国軍の進軍は、台北が山で囲まれていることで阻害される。しかし中国が海軍で、台北の玄関口、基隆港を封鎖すれば、300万の人口を持つ台北は1カ月ももちこたえることはできまい 。ここの海は浅いので、台湾の潜水艦は中国海軍に対して行動することはできない。陸上からのミサイル、軍艦、そして戦闘機のみが、基隆沖の中国海軍を脅かすことができるだろう。






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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Defense of Taiwan
-a Test for the U.S. Alliance System in the West Pacific-