Thinking the Unthinkable: The Need for Greater U.S.-Japan Dialogue on Taiwan
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan has increasingly drawn attention on the world stage. This is due not only to its role as a key flashpoint in the tense U.S.-China relationship, but also in part because of its outsized role in the global semiconductor manufacturing industry. However, the Western public has only slowly begun to realize the key role that Japan would play in any U.S.-China scenario over Taiwan.
As this essay examines, Japanese policymakers overall recognize the vital interests at stake in the event of a People’s Republic of China (PRC) invasion of Taiwan. However, while they have clearly communicated this to U.S. policymakers, and are taking steps to increase Japan’s abilities to intervene, a pacifist constitution and wary public may constrain Japan from taking action. Continued clear and consistent messaging to the Japanese public is therefore necessary to help reinforce Japan’s preparations for any such contingency, and informal bilateral collaboration is urgently needed to identify current gaps in alliance management. If taken, these two steps will not only help Japan prepare for the severe ramifications of any Taiwan contingency, but also likely help prevent one from occurring.
About the Author
Will Nelson taught on the JET Program from 2017-2019 in Aomori Prefecture. He is a Student Fellow at the Center for Security Policy Studies (CSPS) at George Mason University. As a current International Security M.A. student at George Mason University (GMU), his research interests focus on intelligence and strategic analysis with an emphasis on the rise of China in the Indo-Pacific and the political structure of authoritarian states.
This summer, he worked as a Graduate Fellow at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, focusing on the strategic implications of emerging Asian military technologies. He has also worked at the National Bureau of Asian Research, the Anti-Illicit Trade Institute at the Terrorism, Transnational Crime, and Corruption Center (TraCCC), and was a research assistant with the State Department’s Regional China Office, focusing on Chinese Digital Silk Road activities in Southeast Asia.
Will’s writing has been featured in the Cipher Brief, GMU’s Center for Security Policy Studies, and AFCEA’s Signal Magazine.
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