Japan has gone ahead and decided that airspace above Yonaguni island, the westernmost island in all of Japan, is indeed entirely Japan’s responsibility. That may sound like a no-brainer, but during the 1950s, the United States controlled Yonguni and the rest of the Ryukyu islands and decided to split control of the airspace with Taiwan. Taiwan is not happy.

On June 26, Japan unilaterally extended the ADIZ [Air Defense Identification Zone--JSW] line westwards by 22 kilometers. As a result, Taiwanese and Japanese AIDZs now overlap. That Tokyo seems willing to put up with the prospect of doing damage to Taiwan-Japan relations shows how much it worries about China’s military activities in the East China Sea. (Link)

You might think the Taiwanese–who at times seem rather unserious about the defense of their own country–might be relieved that an excessive burden to their defense responsibilities has ended. Why should they be responsible for the air defense of a Japanese island? For Taiwan though, this is not relief but a painful dent in their sovereignty, made by a country that doesn’t even technically recognize the Taiwanese government. In the end it’s not even about them, it’s about China. Well, the other China.

There’s not much Taiwan can do about it. A military confrontation is out of the question, and diplomatically Japan doesn’t even recognize Taiwan, so it’s not like the Taiwanese can call in the Japanese ambassador in Taipei and read him or her the riot act. Japanese interests are unofficially represented by a trade office in Taipei. Taiwan can fume, but that’s it.

Still, this is a not very nice move by Japan. Japan and Taiwan are both American allies, sort of, and you would think being peers would entitle Taiwan to a little more courtesy. It seems too discourteous. Unless…behind the scenes, this has already been worked out, and both parties decided that it would be better for Japan to appear to act unilaterally than for Taiwan to willingly cut a deal. That would save Taiwan some face, under the theory that it’s better to appear a victim than an accomplice.

The rest of the article is an interesting read and tries to sort out the jumble of Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese territorial claims, legal definitions, and media hype.

I’m actually very curious as to why the U.S. split the ADIZ. It doesn’t seem to make any sense. One wonders if the CIA using Taiwanese pilots during the 1950s to spy on China had anything to do with it.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 596 post(s) on Japan Security Watch