In April 2021, President Biden and his Japanese counterpart made global headlines when they jointly “underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”—the first such reference in a joint summit-level statement since the U.S. and Japanese governments switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in the 1970s. In the nearly three years since, such language has been repeated dozens of times. Meanwhile, discussions within Tokyo about a so-called “Taiwan Strait contingency” have been mainstreamed to an unprecedented degree. Amidst a rapidly changing regional balance of power and with the Biden administration asserting that U.S. allies would “take action” if Beijing seeks “to use force to disrupt the status quo,” this talk will examine the historical evolution of Japanese perspectives on the U.S.-Japan security alliance’s and the JSDF’s potential roles in a “Taiwan Strait contingency.” Though Tokyo’s nuanced positions and policies are often neglected in the U.S.-centric academic literature and policy discourse, Japan is a critical front-line player. Its choices are today—and will inevitably remain—crucial variables affecting cross-strait deterrence, U.S. options, and how things may play out if deterrence fails.
Adam P. Liff is the Visiting Chair in Modern and Contemporary Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. Beyond Georgetown, Dr. Liff is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies, as well as an Associate-in-Research at Harvard University’s Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. He is currently on leave from Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, where he is Associate Professor of East Asian International Relations (with tenure) and Founding Director of the 21st Century Japan Politics and Society Initiative. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Politics from Princeton University, a postgraduate research certificate from the University of Tokyo, and a B.A. from Stanford University. His personal research website is https://adampliff.com/(link is external).