WASHINGTON—As the Chinese regime continues to flex its military muscle, the former chief of Japan’s naval forces said it is high time for Japan to increase its military exchanges and cooperation with its close neighbor Taiwan, which is also being threatened by Beijing’s aggressive activities in the region.
At a Sasakawa Peace Foundation forum in Washington on May 2, Tomohisa Takei, the retired admiral and former chief of staff of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), said that Japan should remain vigilant in ensuring that China doesn’t get an opportunity to change the status quo in the region.
Takei also called for Japan to increase military communication and exchanges with its southern neighbor Taiwan, and said that currently there is “almost nothing” in terms of cooperation between the Taiwanese Navy and the JMSDF.
“Taiwan has a strong navy. There must be more interaction between Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force ships and Taiwanese navy ships to avoid accident situations,” said Takei. “Japan and China already agreed to set up maritime and air communication mechanism. Japan should also establish such communication with Taiwan.”
Takei, who was the head of Japan’s naval forces from 2014 to 2016 and is now a fellow at the U.S. Naval War College, also said that Beijing’s military buildup and ever-increasing aggression in the region are primarily aimed at retaking Taiwan. Takei said Japan needs to increase engagement with “like-minded countries” in the Indian Ocean to resist the expansionist power.
The United States maintains a close military relationship with Japan, as the two countries have a mutual defense treaty in place. Due to political pressure from Beijing, however, Japan does not have any established military cooperation or exchange mechanism with Taiwan, which is Japan’s closest neighbor to the south.
“There is a lot of potential for Taiwan to cooperate more with Japan, especially in military aspects,” David An, a senior research fellow with the Global Taiwan Institute, told The Epoch Times. “Since much of [Taiwan’s and Japan’s] equipment are of U.S. origin and already have military communication systems in common, there is a lot of interoperability between Taiwan’s and Japan’s militaries.”
An, a former U.S. State Department political-military affairs officer, cautioned, however, that Taiwan’s military cooperation with countries outside of the United States is often done in a quiet and low-profile manner, so as to avoid interference by Beijing.
“If cooperation is quiet, then it is hard to tell the exact extent of cooperation—whether high, medium, or low,” An said, citing Taiwan’s military exchanges with Singapore, which does not formally recognize Taiwan’s statehood but regularly sends troops to Taiwan for training exercises, a low-profile program that has been in existence for decades that Beijing has consistently opposed.