KEY POINTS

  • This comes in the wake of rising Chinese aggression near Taiwan
  • Tokyo has currently deployed one retired defense official in Taipei
  • China has warned Tokyo not to interfere in its internal affairs

Japan is reportedly planning to send an "active-duty" defense official to Taiwan to strengthen "information-gathering capabilities" in the wake of increasing Chinese aggression in the Taiwan Strait.

Japan's Ministry of Defense (MOD) is considering sending an official this summer (June to mid-September), reported local website Sankei.

Tokyo currently has one retired defense official deployed in Taipei. This official, who is also called the security chief, is equivalent to a defense attaché at a diplomatic mission abroad. Since he is not on active duty, he cannot communicate directly with the MOD but only through diplomatic channels.

Japan started posting a defense official in Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association's Taipei office in 2003 due to insufficient military-related information during the Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1996. However, it has so far refrained from sending an active official not to provocate China.

Taipei has welcomed the latest move, which analysts claim symbolizes the importance Japan places on Taiwan. According to Su Tzu-yun, a scholar from the Ministry of National Defense Institute for National Defense and Security Research, Japan cares about the Strait as much of its natural resources pass through it.

"Additionally, with the rise of China's naval power and its increasingly blatant military saber-rattling, Japan must take the security of the strait seriously," Su was quoted by Taiwan News.

That said, speculations are rife that Tokyo would only send a lower-ranked officer to Taiwan. Su believes Japan would send a colonel or a major general, who can directly contact the MOD, thereby strengthening the exchange of strategic information between Japan and Taiwan.

However, the move has already infuriated China, which expressed its displeasure through an article that appeared in the state-backed newspaper Global Times. It said Japan was emboldened by the belief that the U.S. has its back and warned Tokyo's "attempt to pull the chestnuts out of the fire" will get itself burned.

"Japan has to be warned that if it dares to provoke China and interfere in China's internal affairs, particularly the Taiwan question, it had better get ready to suffer a blow from China. So must Tokyo's accomplice Washington," the article read, quoting Chinese military expert Song Zhongping.

Japan's economy shrank in the first quarter of the year as Covid restrictions were imposed
Representation. Japan is planning to send a serving defense official to Taiwan. AFP / Kazuhiro NOGI
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