Japan warns of Ukraine-like conflict

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tokyo is against the use of force in the region

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has warned that a Ukraine-style armed conflict could break out in East Asia. He said that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is critical for Tokyo and the international community.

“We must collaborate with our allies and like-minded countries, and never tolerate a unilateral attempt to change the status quo by the use of force in the Indo Pacific, especially in East Asia,” Kishida said during a meeting with his British counterpart Boris Johnson in London on Thursday.

“Ukraine may be East Asia tomorrow,” the Japanese PM added.

Kishida said Japan remains committed to the issues surrounding Taiwan, which Beijing wants to bring under its control, to be resolved through dialogue.

The island raised the alert level shortly after Russia attacked the neighboring country in late February. Foreign Minister Joseph Wu expressed hope on Saturday that China would be sanctioned if it threatens the island with force or invades it. Taiwan and China previously accused each other of stirring up tensions in the region.

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Beijing dismissed the comparisons of Taiwan to Ukraine at the time as inappropriate. Responding to Kishida’s recent remarks on Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “If the Japanese side is sincere about maintaining peace and stability in East Asia, then it should immediately stop provoking major-country confrontation.”

Last month, citing the Russian military campaign in Ukraine among other reasons, Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) submitted a proposal to update the National Defense Program Guidelines, the country’s chief military strategy document. According to Japanese media, the move includes changes that would allow Japan to acquire “counterstrike capabilities” to attack enemy bases and command centers.

In December, the US and Japan drafted an emergency military plan in response to a potential conflict between China and Taiwan, according to Kyodo News. China had previously accused Japan of meddling in Taiwan issues, which it considers domestic affairs.

Admiral Samuel Paparo, the commander of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, said in April that Beijing was studying the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and that, under the current circumstances, a potential invasion of Taiwan would be “highly unpredictable.” 

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UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said late last month that “a Global NATO” needs to arm Taiwan just as it has armed Ukraine, among other requirements.

Taiwan has been ruled by its own government after the civil war ended in mainland China in 1949. Beijing maintains that it favors a peaceful reunification, but had promised to retaliate if Taipei formally declares independence.

The US and many other nations have unofficial diplomatic relations with the island. President Joe Biden said last year that the US would defend Taiwan if China invades. 

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