Abe’s warning to China over Taiwan is a blunt message to President Xi

  • Just as China has deployed over 82 intermediate range missile launchers towards Taiwan and Guam, it has deployed long range missiles in Tibet to pressurize India and Bhutan.
Several China watchers believe that Beijing will become more aggressive towards Taiwan after the February 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Several China watchers believe that Beijing will become more aggressive towards Taiwan after the February 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Published on Dec 02, 2021 12:24 PM IST
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Former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe’s upfront warning to China that Tokyo and Washington will not stand-by if Beijing attacked Taiwan is a message to President Xi Jinping to tone down his belligerence over Taipei.

Speaking virtually at a forum organized by a Taiwanese think tank on Wednesday, Abe said: “An armed invasion of Taiwan would be a grave danger to Japan. A Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-US alliance. People in Beijing, President Xi Jinping in particular, should not have a misunderstanding in recognizing this.” Abe is head of the largest faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and remains a very influential figure in the party and the Island nation.

Former PM Abe’s statement came at a time when Japan has decided to upgrade and extend the capability of its cruise missiles to hit objects over 1000 kilometres from the present capability of 100-200 km. Developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the missiles will be deployed in the second half of this decade with multi-spectrum capability. Essentially, the Japanese plan is to deter the increased missile development competition in the Asia Pacific Region.

Given the past legacy of Japan, China and South Korea will be uneasy with this missile development plan but the fact is that Beijing is in a hyper-aggressive mode in the region. It has already deployed intermediate-range ballistic missiles that can target any city in Japan and the US base in Guam. The Chinese propaganda media has nick-named these missiles ship killer and Guam killer.

While the US has already made it clear that it would take (unspecified) action if China was to use force to alter the status of Taiwan, the Biden administration, aided by the US Congress, is considering a plan to deploy an intermediate-range ballistic missile network on the first Island chain connecting Okinawa (which has a US base) to Taiwan and Philippines.

In the light of the above, Shinzo Abe statement should not be taken lightly as it makes it evident that Tokyo will shed its pacifist posture (enshrined in article nine of their constitution) if China continues to steamroll its hegemonistic agenda in the Asia Pacific as well as towards Indian sub-continent.

Just as the PLA has increased the number of intermediate-range missile launchers to as high as 82 towards Asia-Pacific adversaries, it has also deployed long-range missiles in Tibet to pressurize India and subdue the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. China has already started building an airbase in Burang county, just north of Lipu-Lekh pass, and it is only a matter of time when military aircraft and drones will be deployed at the new base. Already, the PLA has deployed two S-400 air defence systems against India in Tibet and three systems to handle the possible US-Japan threat on its eastern seaboard.

Several China watchers believe that Beijing will become more aggressive towards Taiwan after the February 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing as it does not want any games boycott from the participating nations like US and Japan in the worst-case scenario. The situation on the India-China border in Ladakh is no different with Beijing continuing its Sinicization of Tibet and Xinjiang agenda and turning the Himalayan plateau into a fortress. The contested Senkaku Island chain is just 100 km from Taiwan and the Burang airport mere 400 km from Delhi. A two-front deterrence may force China to abandon its belligerent path as any adverse action can spiral into a global conflict.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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