The ruling parties of Japan and Taiwan will hold their first bilateral security talks on Friday as the two nations seek to strengthen ties to counter an increasingly belligerent China.
In an interview with the Financial Times on Tuesday, Masahisa Sato, a parliamentarian who runs foreign affairs for the ruling Liberal Democratic party, said deeper dialogue was needed because Taiwan’s future would have “a serious impact” on both Japan’s security and economy.
“That is how important we feel the situation in Taiwan is at the moment,” Sato said.
Details of the online meeting were revealed as US vice-president Kamala Harris, during a visit to south-east Asia, castigated China for its threatening behaviour towards its neighbours.
“Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea,” Harris said in Singapore, describing China’s claims as “unlawful”. She added that “the United States stands with our allies and partners in the face of these threats”.
The talks between party officials are a substitute for ministerial talks since Japan and Taiwan do not have diplomatic relations. In the future, Sato said, the LDP would aim to hold higher-level talks with Taiwanese government officials.
The dialogue coincides with the start of in-depth planning between US and Japanese military officials for a possible conflict between China and Taiwan. Tokyo has also directly linked Taiwan’s security with its own in a recent defence white paper, breaking with years of precedent.
Sato and Taku Otsuka, another LDP parliamentarian in charge of defence issues, will hold the online talks with their counterparts from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive party.
Sato has called for joint training in rescue operations for natural disasters and accidents at sea as a way to deepen relations with Taiwan, while maintaining Tokyo’s longstanding policy of not forging a direct military relationship with Taipei.
On the DPP side, Lo Chih-cheng, a lawmaker who heads the party’s international department, and Tsai Shih-ying, a member of the parliament’s foreign affairs and defence committee, will attend the talks.
Taiwanese politicians said they were encouraged by the growing importance Japan attached to the threat to their country.
“The initiative for these talks came from the Japanese side,” said one of the Taiwanese organisers. He added that Taipei had long thought more dialogue with Japan, especially on security matters, was needed, pointing to the semi-official Monterey Talks where the US and Taiwan discuss defence issues as a template.
“Given that all four participants are members of parliament, it is a bit like a track one dialogue,” he said. “Although we will be attending in our capacity as party officials, we all have direct influence on policy.”
China warned Japan last week against interfering in its domestic affairs and urged Tokyo to reconsider holding party-level talks with Taipei.
“The Chinese side firmly opposes all forms of official interactions between Taiwan and countries having diplomatic ties with China,” said Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry.
Additional reporting by Mercedes Ruehl in Singapore