Friday, March 04, 2005

Silent Partners: They never meet, but a de facto alliance has formed between the leaders of Japan and Taiwan

BY ANTHONY SPAETH, From the Mar. 07, 2005 issue of TIME Asia Magazine

In dealing with the delicate issue of Taiwan, most governments follow the American model. They vow at regular intervals that they recognize only One China—the People's Republic—but then send diplomatic personnel to Taipei (under commercial cover), trade with the Un-China, and maintain discreet official contact. The much heavier burden of maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait—making sure China doesn't try to take Taiwan by force, or Taipei doesn't provoke Beijing into trying—is shouldered by Washington alone.

Now Japan is lending the U.S. support on that potential battle line. Two weeks ago, Washington and Tokyo issued a joint communiqué that specifically cites peace in the Taiwan Strait as a common objective of the two allies. That came just weeks before China's National People's Congress is expected to enact an anti-secession law that may require the mainland to declare war if Taiwan declares independence, and days before U.S. President George W. Bush went to Europe and tried to dissuade the E.U. from lifting its 16-year embargo on selling arms to China—arms that would be most useful for invading Taiwan. As a result, the cross-strait chessboard has become more like a game of go: more subtle and unpredictable. "I do think it was a surprise," says Kenneth Lieberthal, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and former senior director for Asia at the National Security Council. "If you had asked before, most specialists would have said, 'the Japanese don't do that.'" ---------------------------------

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