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EDITORIAL | Deterrence to Protect Taiwan More Urgent than Ever

As Taiwan inaugurates a new president, Japan must work with its neighbor to protect the region. That is the best deterrent to China's tactics of intimidation.



Taiwan's new President Lai Ching-te and new Vice-President Hsiao Bi-khim wave during the inauguration ceremony on May 20. (@Kyodo)

On Monday, May 20, Lai Ching-te was sworn in as the new president of Taiwan. Lai led the center-left Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to victory in the January presidential election.

In his inaugural address, Lai declared that Taiwan has an unwavering commitment to democracy and freedom. He also indicated that in response to growing pressure from China, Taiwan intends to further bolster its defense capabilities in collaboration with other democracies.

Japan should back the Lai administration and help preserve peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait

Regarding diplomatic and security policies, Lai has appropriately signaled his intent to follow the lines of his predecessor, Tsai Ing-wen. Many core members of the Lai administration were also prominent figures in the Tsai administration. 

Taiwan's outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen and new President Lai Ching-te attend the inauguration ceremony on May 20. (©Kyodo)

China's Record of Coercion

China applied considerable pressure on the Tsai government by increasing military activity near Taiwan and banning imports of certain agricultural products. Nevertheless, while she was in office, then-President Tsai steadfastly promoted collaboration with the United States and worked to strengthen ties with countries in Europe. Her achievements in terms of enhancing Taiwan's security are impressive.

In 2017 Lai famously characterized himself as "a pragmatic worker for Taiwan independence." He has since adjusted his stance and no longer advocates "Taiwan independence." Instead, he promises as president to maintain the status quo and within that context to work to protect Taiwan's freedom, democracy, and prosperity. 

There is a consensus in the international community that "peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is critical." Lai should remain confident, but at the same time proceed prudently as far as his policies towards China are concerned. 

Former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT shakes hands with Song Tao, Director of the PRC's Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council of China on April 1 in Shenzhen, China. (Courtesy of Ma Ying-jeou Foundation)

Attempting to Divide Taiwan

The Chinese government under President Xi Jinping remains intent on absorbing Taiwan. For example, as recently as April, it rolled out the red carpet for former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou. China was eager to have Ma visit because his Kuomintang (KMT) Party, Taiwan's largest opposition party, favors reconciliation with Beijing. 

China's government is undoubtedly eager to bolster its influence with the KMT and interfere in Taiwan's domestic affairs. Meanwhile, the Chinese military continues to try to intimidate Taiwan by sending a large number of warships and military aircraft to nearby areas. 


For any reason, attempts to unilaterally change the status quo are totally unacceptable and are doomed to fail. The people of Taiwan are today enjoying peace and democracy. They also have witnessed the suppression of liberty in Hong Kong. Given this history, they can hardly be expected to welcome rule by the Chinese Communist Party.

Taiwan's new president Lai Ching-te speaks at the inauguration ceremony on May 20. (©Kyodo)

Pulling Together to Deter Aggression

Before assuming office, Lai said: "We will live together or die together. A Taiwan emergency would be a Japan emergency. A Japan emergency would be a Taiwan emergency." 

He thereby indicated his hope to receive Japan's cooperation in deterring China. Western officials involved with national security see it as a given that a Taiwan crisis precipitated by a Chinese invasion would inevitably become a crisis for Japan as well. 

By cooperating to deter China, Japan and Taiwan would also enhance their mutual security. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the rest of the Japanese government should move forward to fundamentally strengthen our defense capabilities while fostering security talks between Japan and Taiwan and among Japan, the US, and Taiwan.

A helicopter flies with the Taiwanese flag during the inauguration ceremony of new President Lai Ching-te. On May 20, in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei. (©Kyodo)


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun