Amid rising tensions across the Taiwan Strait, Japan and the US have made a contingency plan for the eventuality that the crisis further escalates, according to a local media report.
“Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and the US military have drawn up a draft joint operation plan that would enable the setup of an attack base along the Nansei Island chain in the country’s southwest in the event of a Taiwan contingency,” unnamed Japanese government sources told Kyodo News.
They said the SDF will support the US military “to send troops to the islands if a Taiwan contingency appears imminent.”
The matter will be further discussed at an early January meeting of the US and Japanese foreign and defense chiefs before the two allies “likely agree to begin work to formalize an operation plan,” the report said.
Taiwan has already increased interactions with Washington and its partners, drawing anger from Beijing, which claims Taiwan as a “breakaway province.”
While Taipei has been insisting on its independence since 1949, Beijing has not ruled out using force to unite Taiwan with the Chinese mainland.
Under the draft plan, according to Kyodo News, “the US Marines will set up a temporary attack base at the initial stage of a contingency on the Nansei Islands, a chain stretching southwest from the Japanese provinces of Kagoshima and Okinawa toward Taiwan.”
As part of a bilateral security arrangement, nearly 50,000 US soldiers are stationed in Japan, with the majority of its military sites located in Okinawa province.
“Such a deployment, however, would make the islands the target of attack by China's military, putting the lives of residents there at risk. Legal changes would be needed in Japan to realize the plan,” the Japanese government sources said.
Tokyo and Washington have strengthened bilateral defense cooperation in the face of the perceived economic and military threat posed by Beijing.
The two countries have conducted bilateral exercises in waters around Japan and in the disputed South China Sea, where Beijing makes vast claims.
According to the Japanese government sources, “the US Indo-Pacific Command had proposed to the SDF to create a joint operation plan.”
“The condition under which the US military will set up a temporary base is when the Japanese government judges that conflict between the Chinese and Taiwanese militaries will undermine the peace and security of Japan if left as is,” the sources were quoted as saying.
“In such a scenario, the US military will deploy its high mobility artillery rocket system to a temporary base location while the SDF will be tasked with logistical support by providing ammunition and fuel. To prevent coming under attack, US Marines will change base locations.”