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Thursday, January 7, 2010

In the news

From Kyōdō News 共同通信社, by way of the Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ, "Ma urges closer three-way security" (http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100106a4.html):

"Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou (Ba Eikyū) 馬英九 met with ex-Defense Agency 防衛庁 Director General Yoshinori Ōno 大野功統 on Monday and expressed hope for closer cooperation with Japan and the United States on regional security...'We hope we can cooperate more closely in this regard,' Ma was quoted as telling Ōno."

The captain of the good ship ROC certainly knows the right things to say in front of honored guests (as opposed to typhoon victims, for example), as the following shows:

"Commenting on Taiwan's relations with China, Ma told Ōno the improvement in ties across the Taiwan Strait 台湾海峡 has greatly eased tensions between the two political rivals. The improved ties between are 'good not only for the security of East Asia but also for Japan's national security,' Ma was quoted as saying."

On the surface, Ma's statement sounds reasonable. A war involving China and Taiwan would almost certainly result in American intervention, and it would be difficult to imagine Japan watching from the sidelines while the conflict played out in its former colony. But are the closer ties that Ma proudly boasts of truly in Japan's long-term interests? A resurgent, nationalistic China that claims islands presently under Japanese jurisdiction and disputes territorial boundaries over potential undersea oil and gas fields is naturally restrained by a Taiwan that is outside of its direct control. If and when Taiwan is brought under Beijing's wing (whether it be through unification, annexation or integration), Japan would have only a relatively weakening American deterrent to rely on for its security. Can the Chinese be trusted to have only "peaceful intentions"? Ma words on the matter are hardly reassuring:

"On the Chinese missiles targeted at Taiwan, Ma told Ōno that Taiwan has raised the issue but Beijing has not made a conciliatory response. Ma expressed hope for closer cooperation among Taiwan, Japan and the United States on regional security while addressing the threat of China's missiles..."

Despite all the steps taken by Ma's administration to improve relations with China (which less charitable souls might characterize as borderline "kowtowing" 三跪九叩頭の礼), the missiles stay in place. The president's stated hope for closer security cooperation also sounds a bit hollow coming from the man whose prime minister threatened war with Japan over a sunken fishing vessel, and whose party for years blocked the purchase of much-needed weapons from the U.S. in the legislature. Actions speak louder than words, and what Ma and his cohorts have been doing for the almost the last two years are more telling than any soothing sounds spoken to visiting dignitaries.

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