The United States and Japan are conducting joint war games and exercises in the event of a conflict with China over Taiwan, amid mounting concerns about the assertive activity of the Chinese military.
US and Japanese military officials began serious planning for a potential conflict in the final year of the Trump administration, according to six people who asked not to be identified. The activity includes top-secret tabletop war games and joint exercises in the South China Sea and East China
Shinzo Abe, then Japanese Prime Minister, decided in 2019 to significantly expand military planning due to the Chinese threat to Taiwan and the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. This work has continued under the administrations of Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The United States and Japan were concerned that China launched more combat aircraft and bombers into the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone, including 28 standard fighters on June 15. The Chinese Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard have also become increasingly active around the Senkaku, which is administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan.
China insists that it wants to unite Taiwan with the mainland. While she says she wants peaceful reunification, she has not ruled out the use of force to control Taiwan.
Randy Shriver, who served as the Pentagon’s top official in Asia until the end of 2019, said: “In many ways, the People’s Liberation Army together led the United States and Japan towards new thinking in Taiwan. At the same time, the issue of proximity to home.
The United States had long wanted Japan, a mutual defense treaty ally, to conduct more joint military planning, but Japan was constrained by its pacifist postwar constitution. This hurdle was eased, but not eliminated, when the Abe government reinterpreted the constitution in 2015 to allow Japan to defend allies who had come under attack.
When the two allies began to advance their joint planning, Japan asked the United States to share its plan for the Taiwan War, but the Pentagon objected because it wanted to focus on enhancing the planning between the two countries in stages. The ultimate goal, said a former US official, is for the two allies to develop an integrated war plan for Taiwan.
Two of the six people said the US military and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces conducted a joint exercise in the South China Sea designed as a disaster relief exercise. They also conducted more military exercises around the Senkaku River, which also helps prepare for any conflict with China over Taiwan, which is only 350 kilometers west of the islands.
“Some of the activities we are training on are highly interchangeable,” Shriver said, adding that exercises such as an amphibious landing in a “disaster relief scenario” would be “directly applicable” to any conflict over the Senkaku or the Taiwan Strait.
Mark Montgomery, a retired admiral who commanded the USS George Washington aircraft carrier strike group and was director of operations for the Indo-Pacific Command between 2014 and 2017, said the Pentagon needed a “comprehensive understanding” of what support Japan could provide in a conflict situation.
“As the crisis grows and Japan becomes involved, the United States will need to understand how Japan can support or enable US operations,” he added.
US and Japanese diplomats are examining legal issues related to any joint military action, including access to bases and the type of logistical support Japan could provide to US forces involved in a conflict with China.
In the event of a war on Taiwan, the United States would rely on air bases in Japan. But this raises the chances that Tokyo will be drawn into conflict, especially if China tries to destroy bases in an effort to derail the United States.
One official said the US and Japan urgently need to establish a trilateral engagement mechanism with Taiwan to obtain information on the movements of Chinese naval and air forces, especially around the Miyako Strait to the east of Taiwan which is covered by Japanese sensors from the northeast and Taiwan. Sensors from the southwest.
Some of this type of data is shared between Taiwan and the United States, and between Japan and the United States. “We do not have a direct three-way engagement,” the official said. “You can’t start setting that up in the middle of an emergency. You have to do it now.”
Another official said the three countries took a small but important step in 2017 by agreeing to share codes of military aircraft to help identify friendly aircraft.
Taiwan officials and US and Japanese sources said cooperation has skyrocketed since then, spurred by a growing awareness in Japan about the importance of Taiwan – which is 110 kilometers from Yonaguni, the westernmost island of the Japanese archipelago – to its security.
said Hino Klink, the former senior Pentagon official who oversaw military relations with Japan and Taiwan from late 2019 through the end of the Trump administration.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said Tokyo and Washington continued to update their joint planning after a 2015 review of the guidelines underpinning the military alliance, but declined to provide any details. The Pentagon did not comment.
Additional reporting by Robin Harding in Tokyo