Washington appears to be successfully wooing Japan to its side after urging a more united 'standing up' against China when it comes to Taiwan and other contested sovereignty issues in the South China Sea.
Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Monday made some surprising statements, saying that any future Chinese invasion of Taiwan would likely be interpreted in Tokyo as a "threat to Japan's survival" - allowing the government to deploy its Self-Defense Forces for collective self-defense.
While not necessarily a new policy given recent updates to Japan's post-World War II constitution allow the country to deploy armed forces only in instances it's under attack, Aso's choosing to specifically invoke the hotly contested Taiwan issue alongside an expressed willingness to defend the island with the United States will be taken as especially bellicose and brazen in Beijing.
"If a major incident happened [in Taiwan], it would not be strange at all if it touches on a situation threatening survival," Aso said. "If that is the case, Japan and the US must defend Taiwan together." The number two highest Japanese official further noted "the situation over Taiwan is becoming extremely intense" - especially following a Xi speech days ago wherein he vowed to enforce Chinese sovereignty over the island.
At the moment Japan is actually locked in its own direct standoff with China over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, recently giving its coast guard looser rules of engagement in dealing with Chinese fishing vessels, believed used of China to attempt a quiet de facto takeover of the disputed territory.
Recall that in the very first phone call early this year between Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Japan's Defense Minister, the Biden administration had reaffirmed a previously agreed upon US commitment to defending Japanese sovereignty over the Senkakus.
Meanwhile as was revealed last week...
U.S. and Japan conduct war games amid rising China-Taiwan tensions.— Curiously Curious (@justcurious1313) July 1, 2021
Secret table-top planning and joint exercises in South China Sea continue as concerns grow over Beijing stance.https://t.co/m3Z7KG6dX2
"Secretary Austin further affirmed that the Senkaku Islands are covered by Article V of the US-Japan Security Treaty, and that the United States remains opposed to any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea," the late January call readout had stated.
Later in April Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Biden issued a joint statement that urged "peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait" - however at that time it's likely the American side had pressed for more specific and assertive language.