18 Feb Japan vs. China: Japan Agrees to Joint Taiwan Security Policy
According to reports, Japan has agreed to modify its U.S. security alliance to include Taiwan as a “common strategic objective.” This may sound innocuous enough, but it means that for the first time, Japan will publicly commit itself to support the U.S. in the event of a Chinese military invasion of Taiwan. What kind of support it will provide is admittedly murky, but as one influential Japanese leader puts it: “It would be wrong for us to send a signal to China that the United States and Japan will watch and tolerate China’s military invasion of Taiwan.”
The Taiwanese are thrilled to get even this tepid endorsement of support. The Chinese, already fuming over Japanese assertion of territorial claims over the Senkaku Islands, are going to go ballistic (maybe literally). For an example of a somewhat tempered reaction to earlier Japanese actions, see here.
Those not familiar with recent East Asian history might find this whole thing unsurprising and perhaps uninteresting. But consider. What is the only thing worse for global peace and security than rogue nations acquiring weapons of mass destruction?
Answer: A full-scale military battle between China and the United States over Taiwan
This scary possibility might make me pine for an Asian multilateral organization to mediate this coming conflict, as Fukuyama has suggested. But Asia is not Europe and Japan and China are nothing like Germany and France. So the world will have to rely less on international lawyers and institutions (whose value can be debated anyway) and hope that their diplomats will be able save the day.