Russia and China are coordinating military exercises to threaten not only Taiwan but also Hawaii, according to a senior Japanese defense official who warned the United States to beware of a Pearl Harbor-style surprise attack.
“We have to show the deterrence towards China, and not just China but also the Russians, because, as I told you, that they are doing their exercises together,” Japanese deputy Yasuhide Nakayama told the Hudson Institute this week.
Taiwan’s vulnerability to an invasion from mainland China has become a preoccupation of Indo-Pacific strategists in recent months, as Chinese Communist forces escalate their military drills around the island. Nakayama, who was unusually frank about the need for democratic nations to ensure Taiwan’s survival, implied that Russia and China are working as allies preparing for a major conflict.
“I think the Taiwanese are really concerned,” he said. “And also, they’re focusing on the two big countries collaborating and [presenting] a lot of threat towards Taiwan.”
Chinese Communist officials regard Taiwan as a renegade province, one that they have claimed since coming to power in 1949 but never governed. Most countries recognize the regime in Beijing as the official Chinese government and do not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, although the U.S. has maintained a friendly relationship and provided weaponry to help Taiwanese authorities deter an invasion from the mainland.
“We have to protect Taiwan as a democratic country,” Nakayama said before suggesting that world leaders may have erred during the Cold War by seeming to concede that Taiwan would eventually be reunited with mainland China. “Was it right? … I don’t know.”
China’s Foreign Ministry protested his description of Taiwan as a “country” and alleged that Tokyo is trying to portray China as a threat in order to justify its own military buildup.
“This is extremely irresponsible and dangerous,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Tuesday. “The politician in question flagrantly refers to Taiwan as a ‘country’ on multiple occasions, severely violating principles set out in the four political documents including the China-Japan Joint Statement and its solemn and repeated commitment of not seeing Taiwan as a country. We ask Japan to make crystal clarification, and ensure that such things won’t happen again.”
Nakayama emphasized throughout the talk that tensions in the Indo-Pacific have a direct bearing on American security, especially in light of coordination between China and Russia. He drove home the point by raising the specter of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which provoked the U.S. military intervention in the Second World War.
“Seventy years ago, we attacked Pearl Harbor, but now the U.S. and Japan [are] very good allies, one of the best allies all over the world,” he said, noting that Russia is conducting naval drills in the Pacific this week. “I don’t want to remind [us of the attack] 70 years ago, but we have to be careful of the exercising of the Russians. They are taking place [off] the western side of that, Honolulu, I mean, in Hawaii.”
Russian officials described their “missile and artillery firings” in the Pacific as an equipment check. “In the course of practical measures, the warships jointly repelled a notional enemy’s air attack,” the Russian Pacific Fleet’s press office said Wednesday per state media. “The exercise was intended to check the reliable operation of shipborne weapons in a hot climate.”
For Nakayama, such operations make clear that Japan and the U.S. have a common problem that needs to be deterred jointly.
“Honolulu to Japan, this zone is becoming — [the] Chinese and the Russians come in this zone,” he said. “So, [for] the United States, the protection line is going to be backwards a little bit.”