June 16: Taiwan-Japan Relations: Implications for the United States

June 16: Taiwan-Japan Relations: Implications for the United States

Wednesday, June 16, 2021 from 9:00AM-10:45AM (ET)

Webcast Only

Event Description:

The Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) is pleased to invite you to a virtual seminar on Taiwan-Japan relations and their implications for the United States. During their meeting on April 16, US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took the unprecedented step of recognizing the “importance of peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait.” While undoubtedly momentous, this statement did not emerge from a bilateral vacuum but was instead indicative of broader trends in US-Japan-Taiwan relations. As an important but relatively unexamined vector of the trilateral relationship, Taipei and Tokyo have a long history and are increasingly cooperating on the international stage. From expanding trade ties to deepening cultural affinities, the two island nations have built the foundations for a strong future relationship. Despite these advances, the United States has not traditionally fully grasped the strategic implications of stronger Taiwan-Japan relations. What are the domestic drivers of these changes in Taiwan and Japan? Moreover, what are their implications for the United States and the future of the trilateral relationship in the context of US-China strategic competition? 

Panelists will include: June Teufel Dreyer (University of Miami), I-Chung Lai (Prospect Foundation), Yasuhiro Matsuda (University of Tokyo), Sheila Smith (Council on Foreign Relations), and Kenneth Weinstein (Hudson Institute). The event will be moderated by GTI Executive Director Russell Hsiao.

The event webcast will be broadcast live on our website and YouTube on Wednesday, June 16 at 9 AM (ET). Questions for the panel may either be sent by e-mail to contact@globaltaiwan.org or through the chat function on the YouTube page. 

The Panel:

June Teufel Dreyer is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, where she teaches courses on China, US defense policy, and international relations. She has also lectured to, and taught a course for, National Security Agency analysts. Professor Dreyer is also a member of GTI’s Advisory Board. Formerly Senior Far East Specialist at the Library of Congress, she has also served as Asia policy Advisor to the Chief of Naval Operations and as Commissioner of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission established by the US Congress. Professor Dreyer received her BA from Wellesley College and her MA and PhD from Harvard, and has lived in China and Japan and paid numerous visits to Taiwan. She has served as a United States Information Agency lecturer, speaking in fourteen Asia-Pacific states. Professor Dreyer has published widely on the Chinese military, Asian-Pacific security issues, China-Taiwan relations, Sino-Japanese relations, ethnic minorities in China, and Chinese foreign policy.

I-Chung Lai is the President of the Prospect Foundation, a Taiwan-based think tank. Prior to joining the Prospect Foundation, he held several prominent positions within the Democratic Progressive Party, serving as Executive Director of the DPP Mission to the United States and as the Director General of the Department of International Affairs. He has also worked as a Special Assistant with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Tokyo.

Yasuhiro Matsuda is Professor of International Politics at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, the University of Tokyo. He received his Ph.D. in law from the Graduate School of Law at Keio University in Tokyo. He spent sixteen years in the National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS) at the Japan Defense Agency (later, Ministry of Defense), as an assistant and a senior research fellow. Subsequently, he moved to the Institute of Oriental Culture (later, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia) of the University of Tokyo in 2008. His research focuses on the political and diplomatic history of Asia, politics and foreign relations in the PRC and Taiwan, Cross-Strait relations, and Japan’s foreign and security policies. He was a member of the Council on Security and Defense Capability in the New Era, a group which advised the Prime Minister in 2010. He was the winner of the seventh Yasuhiro Nakasone Award of Excellence in 2011. He has published numerous books and articles in Japanese, English, and Chinese.

Sheila Smith is Senior Fellow for Japan Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). An expert on Japanese politics and foreign policy, she is the author of several books on Japanese foreign policy. Smith joined CFR from the East-West Center in 2007, where she directed a multinational research team in a cross-national study of the domestic politics of the US military presence in Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. She was a visiting scholar at Keio University in 2007-08, where she researched Japan’s foreign policy towards China, supported by the Abe Fellowship. Smith has been a visiting researcher at two leading Japanese foreign and security policy think tanks, the Japan Institute of International Affairs and the Research Institute for Peace and Security, and at the University of Tokyo and the University of the Ryukyus. Smith is chair of the Japan-US Friendship Commission (JUSFC) and the US advisors to the US-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON), a binational advisory panel of government officials and private-sector members. She teaches as an adjunct professor at the Asian studies department of Georgetown University and serves on the board of its Journal of Asian Affairs. She also serves on the advisory committee for the US-Japan Network for the Future program of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation.

Kenneth Weinstein is the Walter P. Stern Distinguished Fellow at the Hudson Institute. Previously, he served as President and Chief Executive Officer at Hudson. In December 2019, he became the inaugural holder of the Walter P. Stern Chair. He joined the Institute in 1991, was appointed CEO in June 2005, and was named president and CEO in March 2011, a position he held until 2020.  Weinstein has written widely for publications in the United States, Europe, and Asia, including The Wall Street JournalLe Monde, and the Yomiuri Shimbun. From 2017 until 2020, Weinstein chaired the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the oversight body for U.S. Agency for Global Media, and was chair of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting and the Open Technology Fund. He previously was a member of the National Humanities Council, the governing body of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Weinstein serves on the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations, which provides counsel on trade agreements to the United States Trade Representative. In March 2020, he was nominated by President Trump to serve as US Ambassador to Japan. His nomination was reported unanimously out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September 2020.

The Moderator:

Russell Hsiao is the Executive Director of GTI, Senior Fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, and Adjunct Fellow at Pacific Forum. He is a former Penn Kemble Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and Visiting Scholar at the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia. He previously served as a Senior Research Fellow at The Project 2049 Institute and National Security Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Prior to those positions he was the editor of China Brief at The Jamestown Foundation from October 2007- to July 2011 and a Special Associate in the International Cooperation Department at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. While in law school, he clerked within the Office of the Chairman at the Federal Communications Commission and the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Hsiao received his J.D. and certificate from the Law and Technology Institute at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law where he served as the editor-in-chief of the Catholic University’s Journal of Law and Technology. He received a B.A. in international studies from the American University’s School of International Service and the University Honors Program.

Event Summary

On June 16, 2021, the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) held a virtual panel discussion entitled “Taiwan-Japan Relations: Implications for the United States.” Moderated by GTI Executive Director Russell Hsiao, the panel included a wide range of experts from Japan, Taiwan, and the United States. Hsiao was joined by Professor Yasuhiro Matsuda of the University of Tokyo, Professor and GTI Advisory Board Member June Teufel Dreyer of the University of Miami, I-Chung Lai of the Taiwan-based Prospect Foundation, Senior Fellow Sheila Smith of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Kenneth Weinstein, the Walter P. Stern distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Professor Matsuda began his remarks by asking if Japan-Taiwan relations are determined by continuity or change, especially in the wake of the joint Biden-Suga remarks supporting peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. By his estimation, the answers are mixed: indeed, Japan has consistently pushed back against pressure by China on several fronts. Japan has not allowed China to pressure it out of participating in the security alliance with the United States, and has not buckled to pressure surrounding matters of sovereignty. Matsuda cited the example of former President Lee Teng-hui’s visit to Japan after leaving office—which China vehemently opposed—as an example of the Japanese authorities shrugging off Chinese pressure. Additionally, Japan’s advocacy for Taiwan to participate in the WTO and Asian Development Bank, along with its recent vaccine donations, illustrates continuity in Japan’s support for Taiwan. However, Matsuda saw no indications that further Japan-Taiwan security cooperation is in the cards and argued that direct security ties “could take decades” to emerge.

Following this, Smith outlined Japan’s domestic factors affecting the relationship, including Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s approach to Taiwan. While the party was previously divided into China-friendly and anti-China factions, the lines between the two have softened after President Biden’s inauguration. Led by Representative Masahisa Sato, the LDP set up a working group to formulate Taiwan policy, signaling that the Suga Administration views Taiwan’s security as an extension of Japan’s own security policy. The Japanese public also has a high opinion of Taiwan, especially after Taiwan came to the aid of Japan in the wake of the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake, Smith pointed out.

Dr. Lai of the Prospect Foundation agreed that Taiwan-Japan relations are headed in a new, more collaborative direction. After the Lee Teng-hui era, Japan began to view Taiwan as a valuable democratic partner with shared values. However, the transition from centering around Taiwan-China-Japan trilateral relations to a new trilateral relationship between Taiwan, the US, and Japan will be difficult, he argued. Inviting G7 nations to play a part in confronting Taiwan policy challenges was a good first step, and the three partners should continue to develop this area, Lai concluded.

Professor Dreyer and Weinstein then spoke to the implications of Taiwan-Japan relations for the United States. Dreyer outlined the shared security concerns of Japan and the US regarding Taiwan, highlighting the proximity of Japan’s outlying islands to Taiwan. Further, she described Taiwan as the “buckle in the belt,” preventing Chinese expansionism from bursting into the greater Pacific. Weinstein then noted how critical it is for Japan and the United States to defend the “first island chain,” stating that the sale of F-16 fighters to Taiwan under President Trump was a good first step, but that the US authorities “can and should do more” to enhance the relationship with Taiwan. Weinstein suggested that Japan should work to share intelligence with Taiwan while simultaneously building up the image of Taiwan among the Japanese public, especially with regards to defense against PRC aggression. Currently, the Japanese public primarily views China as a threat to the Senkaku Islands, and does not perceive the threat to Taiwan as particularly dire. However, as Dreyer noted, “Any Taiwan emergency becomes a Japan emergency” due to proximity and US military presence. Therefore, Dreyer concluded, a sound deterrence plan for all three parties will be key to moving the relationship forward.

This summary was written by GTI Summer 2021 Intern Nicholas Fuhrman.

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