The United States and Japan are waging war games amid growing tensions between China and Taiwan


The United States and Japan have been conducting joint war games and military exercises in the event of a conflict with China over Taiwan, amid concerns about the Chinese army’s assertive activity.

U.S. and Japanese military officials began seriously planning a possible conflict during the last year of the Trump administration, according to six people who asked for anonymity. The activity includes board war games and joint exercises in southern China and the seas of East China.

Shinzo Abe, then Japanese Prime Minister, decided in 2019 to significantly expand military planning due to the Chinese threat to Taiwan and the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. This work has continued under the administrations of Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, according to three of the people with knowledge of the matter.

The United States and Japan have been alarmed when China has introduced more fighter jets and bombers into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, including a record 28 fighters on June 15. which are administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan.

China insists it wants to unify Taiwan with the mainland. While he says he wants peaceful unification, he has not ruled out the use of force to take control of Taiwan.

“In many ways, the People’s Liberation Army pushed the United States and Japan together and toward a new way of thinking about Taiwan,” said Randy Schriver, who was head of the Pentagon in Asia until the end of 2019. “Assertiveness around the Senkaku and Taiwan at the same time, generates the issue of proximity.”

The US has long wanted Japan, an ally of the mutual defense treaty, to carry out more joint military planning, but Japan was forced by its post-war pacifist constitution. This hurdle was softened, but not removed, when the Abe government in 2015 reinterpreted the constitution to allow Japan to defend the attacked allies.

When the two allies began to strengthen their joint planning, Japan asked the United States to share its Taiwan war plan, but the Pentagon was delayed because it wanted to focus on pushing planning between the two countries to phases. A former U.S. official said the ultimate goal was for the two allies to create an integrated war plan for Taiwan.

Two of the six people said the U.S. military and Japanese self-defense forces had conducted joint exercises in the South China Sea that had been prepared as disaster relief training. They have also conducted more military exercises around the Senkaku, which also helps prepare for any conflict with China over Taiwan, which is only 350 km west of the islands.

“Some of the activities we’re training in are highly expendable,” Schriver said, adding that exercises such as an amphibious landing in a “disaster relief scenario” would be “directly applicable” to any conflict around the Senkaku or the Taiwan Strait.

Mark Montgomery, a retired admiral who commanded the USS George Washington aircraft carrier strike group and was director of operations at the Indian-Pacific command between 2014 and 2017, said the Pentagon needed a “complete understanding.” of the support that Japan could provide in the event of a conflict.

Tension has risen over the Senkaku Islands, administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan. © Kyodo via Reuters

“As a crisis grows and Japan is potentially attracted as a participant, the U.S. will need to understand how Japan can support or allow U.S. operations,” he added.

U.S. and Japanese diplomats are examining legal issues related to any joint military action, including access to bases and the type of logistical support Japan could provide to U.S. forces facing a conflict with China.

In the event of a war in Taiwan, the US would rely on Japan’s air bases. But that increases the chances of Tokyo being dragged into the conflict, especially if China tries to destroy the bases in an effort to curb the United States.

An official said the US and Japan urgently need to create a trilateral mechanism to share information with Taiwan on Chinese naval and air force movements, especially around the Miyako Strait in eastern Taiwan. which is covered by Japanese sensors from the northeast and Taiwan. southwest sensors.

“Part of that kind of data is shared between Taiwan and the U.S., and between Japan and the U.S.. But we don’t have any direct compartment on a trilateral basis,” the official said. “You can’t start setting this up in the middle of a contingency. You have to do it now.”

Another official said the three nations had taken a small but important step in 2017 by agreeing to share military aircraft codes to help identify friendly aircraft.

Taiwanese officials and U.S. and Japanese sources said the cooperation had increased significantly since then, driven by growing awareness in Japan about the importance of Taiwan, which is 110 km from Yonaguni, the westernmost island of the world. Japanese archipelago, for your own safety.

“The Japanese government has increasingly recognized, and even publicly acknowledges, that Taiwan’s defense is tantamount to Japan’s defense,” said Heino Klinck, a senior Pentagon official who oversaw military relations with Japan and Taiwan. from late 2019 to the end of the Trump administration.

The Japanese defense ministry said Tokyo and Washington continued to update their joint planning after the 2015 revision of the guidelines supporting the military alliance, but did not want to give any details. The Pentagon made no comment.

Carry on Demetri Sevastopulo i Kathrin Hille on Twitter

Additional reports by Robin Harding in Tokyo


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