Japan Times has an interesting editorial on Japan-Taiwan relations, specifically in regard to Japan’s duty to support its democratic neighbors. For those familiar with Japan and Taiwan’s relationship, there is nothing new there.

To be honest, although I morally side with Taiwan, my pragmatism tells me they are fighting a hopeless battle. It would be more practical for Taiwan to negotiate with China now, while China is still relatively weak, then to wait 15-20 years, when China is strong and even more nationalistic than now. At the same time, as time passes, Taiwanese feel even less fraternity with the Mainland, due to generational drift. Taiwan might get a better deal than Hong Kong…a type of federation type structure. The longer this drags on and the stronger China gets the less likely they will feel so “giving” and the greater chance for conflict.

Taiwan has 23 million people; it is an economic powerhouse, but almost completely isolated diplomatically as most nations recognize it as a part of China; 110 miles (180km) off the coast of China; and heavily integrated into Mainland China economically.

China has 1.3 billion people; the manufacturing hub of the world; nuclear capable; a very large army that is growing in its ability to project force; with an economy that will soon be the 3rd largest in the world and it has not come close to peaking; with a populous that is highly nationalistic and believes Taiwan to be an inseparable part of their nation; and with a government that can not afford to “lose face” over the issue again.

You can do the math from there. I believe that economics drives politics most of the time, and too much money is changing hands with China to go to war with it over Taiwan. Democracy in a small nation like Taiwan is secondary to the national economic interests of most of the major players in this issue (Japan and the U.S. or the EU for that matter).

There was another interesting article concerning Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea that stood out. It it quite obvious that the Taiwanese and South Korean elites do not want American forces out of Asia in 2007 either.

The documents, found at the U.S. National Archives by Yasuko Kono, a professor of Japanese political and diplomatic history at Hosei University in Tokyo, show that some of the well-known U.S. reluctance in those days to return Okinawa without keeping its forces there nuclear-capable was in part due to demands from Seoul and Taipei, which at the time faced threats from the Soviet Union, China and North Korea.

Despite the South Korean and Taiwanese objections and the U.S. reluctance, Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972 after Prime Minister Eisaku Sato and U.S. President Richard Nixon agreed on Nov. 21, 1969, on its return with the U.S. giving up the right to use military bases in the prefecture as it saw fit, including maintaining atomic arsenals, as was the case during the occupation period.

Hat tip to Michael Turton.

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