Taiwan and Okinawa: Potential Danger Zones

As tensions continue to rise in the Southeast and East Asia region, china’s presence as a protective power is essential. Taiwan and Japan in particular which are on China’s routes to the Pacific could become focal points as China has now completed most of its expansion in the South China Sea.

U.S. reassessment towards Taiwan

The Chinese Maritime and Air Force (including the Coast Guard) that cruise almost daily near the disputed islands in the East China Sea (also in the maritime territory of Japan) and around Taiwan, greatly increase the importance of the geographical location of Taiwan and the Japanese island of Okinawa to protect the Indo-Pacific region. With the artificial islands in the South China Sea, China has probably brought the region under its control. The US is conducting operation “Freedom of Navigation” in the South China Sea, but with dubious effect. China will gradually secure its path to the western Pacific. In March this year, Chinese fighter jets flew over the line separating Taiwan and China. The main sea lanes for China are east and west of Taiwan: Miyako (between Taiwan and Japan) and the Bashi waterway. America seems to be stepping up its commitment to Taiwan; in addition to warships, the US also sent the Coast Guard, which along with a US warship crossed the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. Coast Guard participates in the control to prevent prohibited trade with North Korea (goods are loaded from ship to ship on the high seas). Taiwan wants to buy U.S. weapons and reportedly received positive signals. The US is submitting a number of bills aimed at deepening bilateral cooperation between the US and Taiwan and requiring the Pentagon to conduct joint military exercises with Taiwan.[1]

China’s pressure on Taiwan

China’s pressure on “one country, two systems” is clearly rejected by the Taiwanese president. China’s media strategy, however, is in full swing around the world. Taiwanese, who want to do business in China, are forced to support the One-China policy. Despite this precondition, the exodus of experienced Taiwanese engineers to China is not easy to stop. China’s propaganda policy is also beginning to have an effect. By means of fake news, China is trying to sway the Taiwanese government, whereof the organization Reporters Without Borders presented a concrete example. The fake news purported that the Taiwanese government had not helped its citizens who were hit by a typhoon in Japan in 2018. This led to protests against the government by angry Taiwanese and drove the diplomat in charge of the consulate in Osaka to commit suicide. China Watch, an English-language propaganda news portal, is distributed to about 30 prestigious newspapers around the world. The regular and very carefully composed reports could easily steer the readership in the wrong direction.[2]

US bases on Okinawa

The “problem” of US military bases on Okinawa is that their existence appears to have become increasingly intertwined with various local economic interests, which benefit from massive subsidies, compensations, and tax reductions by Japan’s central government.[3] These payments are made based on the burden born by the population due to the U.S. bases. The longer the arguments about the bases continue, the more money flows to Okinawa. These financial benefits are deliberately not addressed by the Okinawa government and its supporters. The financial support, which has lasted for many years, encouraged the dependence of Okinawa, which is dependent on subsidies for more than 70% of the income, which unfortunately did not lead to own initiatives. After America’s post-Cold War strategic reorientation, U.S. bases were scaled down and parts of them were already returned to Okinawa, causing difficulties for surrounding communities as land prices plummeted and jobs were lost after the return. So Chinese investors and tourists are now welcomed.

China’s pressure on Okinawa and Japan

In an American report published in 2016, Chinese propaganda policy was described as a combination of engagement, coercion and alliance division in the Asia/Pacific region. According to the report, China acts and spies on Okinawa with the aim of disrupting and dissolving the alliance between the US and Japan.   Chinese investors are buying property that is rented to U.S.  troops to get hold of military secrets. Chinese agitators are rushing Okinawa’s residents against U.S. bases, and spies are gathering information about American operations and cooperation with Japan’s armed forces through close observation.[4] A movement for Okinawa’s independence from Japan has therefore gained more momentum.

Host countries defray costs for US troops

At the beginning of March 2019, the US government announced a plan to increase the maintenance costs of the host countries for the US bases there: the total cost of maintenance, i.e. 100%, plus 50%, which could represent the risk share as in the case of insurances. The project was then quickly withdrawn, but the idea is likely to remain. For example, Germany’s current assumption of costs is 28%, South Korea’s 50%, Saudi Arabia’s 65%, and Japan’s 75%. Negotiations increased South Korea’s share to 80%, but this now requires annual re-pricing negotiations. The allied states are also heavily burdened by arms purchases from the US, so that scarce defense budgets are additionally strained by the procurement of sometimes dispensable weapons.

Although US President Trump is demanding more cost-sharing from allied countries, and Okinawa residents are allegedly opposed to US bases for various reasons, the Japanese government is trying to keep US troops on Okinawa at all costs, but a strongly entrenched Japanese pacifism and apparently effective Chinese and Korean propaganda are thwarting this move.


As long as China cannot militarily win against the US, it is trying to weaken the targeted countries from within through economic engagement and actions such as espionage and agitation. Good examples of this course of action are Taiwan and Okinawa. If the US changes its strategy toward Taiwan, it will affect Japan’s strategy, which is neglecting cooperation with Taiwan because of economic interests in China. If President Trump wants host countries to pay more for U.S. troops, this could be a reason for some U.S. allies to change the alliance’s cooperation and structure. In the Indo-Pacific region, the importance of America’s presence is increasing, especially for Taiwan and Japan, and an alliance between Taiwan and Japan could become indispensable.  Measures to strengthen internal security against China’s incitement and agitation should have been taken a long time ago. Propaganda is China’s most important strategy. The task of the Chinese military is to guarantee the survival of the Communist Party of China, which is why the Communist Party is very cautious in the use of its forces against the USA. In order to keep the military satisfied, the Communist Party must always consider this. On the other hand, a weakened military would also pose an internal threat to the Communist Party of China.

[1] The Epoch Times: Beijing Sends Message to US, Taiwan with Fighter Jet Incursion, April 1, 2019.


[3] The non-binding referendum in Okinawa Prefecture in Japan in February this year on the planned relocation of a US base within Okinawa (from Ginowan City to Nago City) clearly showed the rejection of the population. The usual mood of the residents towards the US bases seems to have been carved in stone. The result of the referendum but shows that the mainly affected residents in Ginowan City where the U.S. base Futenma is massively voted against the relocation of the base (26,439 out of a total of 39,788 votes were against).

[4] U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission: China’s Efforts to Counter U.S. Forward Presence in the Asia Pacific, March 15, 2016.

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