An October 2022 event gathered experts to examine the view of the Taiwan strait from the U.S.-Japan alliance. Presenters with experience in the governance of the United States and Japan considered the Taiwan strait issue from the perspectives of the two countries. The keynote presentation was given by Mr. Matthew Pottinger, Deputy U.S. National Security Advisor from 2019 to 2021, and the National Security Council's Asia director from 2017 to 2019.

Other presenters included Mr. Cortez Cooper, senior international/defense researcher at the RAND Corporation; Professor Matsuda Yasuhiro, professor of international politics at the University of Tokyo; and Dr. Sheila Smith, John E. Merow senior fellow for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Jeffrey W. Hornung, senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. This video includes the full proceedings of the event.

Transcript

Jeffrey W. Hornung

All right. Thank you, everybody, for joining us this morning, especially those of you in the United States who reside in a state that observes Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples' Day. As we know, some of you may have the work off today. But for all of you in our audience, I would like to welcome you, virtually at least, to the RAND Corporation. As many of you know, RAND is a nonpartisan, nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. As a nonpartisan organization, RAND operates independent of political and commercial pressures so we can focus on our core values of quality and objectivity. If we were conducting this in person, I'd have the privilege of welcoming you to our beautiful headquarters in Santa Monica, California. But a virtual gathering like this is what we will have to make do with today. But it's my pleasure to welcome all of you to the second session of the ninth iteration of RAND's U.S.-Japan alliance conference series.

On September 15th, we held the first session of this year's current iteration of our series. During that event, we welcomed keynote speaker Admiral Harry Harris and three panelists to discuss the effects of the war in Ukraine and what that's having on the Indo-Pacific region. This discussion follows eight previous years of discussions examining issues as diverse as Japan's relations with Europe and with South Korea, Japan's development of strike capabilities and its amphibious capabilities, how the alliance is responding to a rising China, perspectives on the Quad in a free and open Indo-Pacific, and issues pertaining to cyber and 5G communication networks. All of these conferences illustrate an essential point. This series has always been current, highlighting some of the most pressing issues facing the U.S.-Japan alliance today. And to discuss them, we've been fortunate over the years to bring together a stellar team of experts to provide insights into challenges and opportunities for the audience. Today will be no different.

Today, we gathered to talk about the alliance in the age of strategic competition, with today's focus looking at the Taiwan Strait issue from the view of the U.S.-Japan alliance. But before we turn to the substance of these discussions, I would be remiss without stating RAND's gratitude to our ongoing partnership with Japan's consulate general in Los Angeles, as well as the Japan House, Los Angeles, and various projects related to U.S.-Japan cooperation. But with that, let me turn to the main proceedings, starting with a few administrative remarks. Audience members, please submit questions through the Q&A function which I will monitor and select from. When we get to the panel discussion section of the program today, please indicate to whom you are posing your question. We do not anticipate a large number of questions and have only a limited amount of time. So my apologies if we do not have an opportunity to ask your question. Finally, after today's event, we will be sending you a short questionnaire about the conference that takes about two minutes to fill out, and it will help us identify future topics and improve our U.S.-Japan alliance event planning. We would be most grateful if you would fill it out and return to us. With that, let me turn to today's events.

It is my pleasure to begin today's proceedings by welcoming our keynote speaker, Mr. Matt Pottinger. Mr. Pottinger is currently a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and chairman of the China program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Prior to his current positions, Mr. Pottinger served at the White House for four years in senior roles on the National Security Council staff, including as deputy national security adviser and the senior director for Asia. In these roles, he coordinated America's national security policy, including the administration's work on the Indo-Pacific region and in particular, its shift on China policy. Before his White House service, Mr. Pottinger served in China as a reporter for Reuters and the Wall Street Journal. And if that were not enough, he also served his country honorably as a U.S. Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he served three combat deployments between 2007 and 2010. Upon his return to civilian life, Mr. Pottinger founded and led an Asia-focused risk consultancy and ran Asia research at an investment fund in New York. Matt, thank you for joining us today. The floor is yours.

Matthew Pottinger

Jeffrey, thanks so much. It's great to be with you. Thanks to RAND and everyone who's helped make this conference happen. I wanted to also offer special greetings to our Japanese colleagues who are tuned in today. It's a beautiful autumn morning here in the American West. I'm in my home state of Utah right now, and the nearby mountains are awash in purple and orange and gold from the the scrub oak trees and the maple trees in the aspens in the Wasatch Mountain range here. And so, the changing of the seasons really reminds us of cycles in world affairs as well. And we are living in a moment right now that I think is pregnant with danger. We have a Russian autocrat who is prosecuting the first major war in Europe since 1945. We have a violent and theocratic regime in Iran that's enriching uranium in pursuit of nuclear weapons. And we have a communist dictator in Beijing who is setting the stage to wage war, to annex Taiwan and extinguish the world's first ever fully functional ethnic Chinese democracy. But if we take a close look right now, an even closer look, I think that that we can see that this is also a moment of great opportunity for free and open societies.

The courageous citizens of Ukraine have shown the world what people are capable of when their liberty and their sovereignty is threatened. Ukraine is really in the process right now of destroying and defeating the conventional armed forces of Russia, which is something that Vladimir Putin really couldn't have imagined. In fact, most of us couldn't have imagined this when Putin made his fateful decision back in February to try to take the capital in Kiev. Iran's rulers are turning their guns against their own people right now again, but they still have been unable to quash widespread popular demonstrations in support of fundamental human rights. And the Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, in pursuing his own totalitarian vision of surveillance and centralized control of all aspects of life in China, has done serious harm to his country's economy. He's done so much harm to the Chinese economy, in fact, that many middle class Chinese now openly state their hopes for a change in leadership in Beijing. So in this moment, if free and open societies are to survive and prosper, our task must be to win the wars we have, namely the one in Ukraine, and to deter the wars that we don't want, namely the battle for Taiwan. I would argue that this is the foremost task and responsibility that Japan and the United States must face today as individual nations and as allies.

Now, to do that, it might help to dispense with some popular misconceptions about wars and how they begin, because I think that by better understanding how wars begin, we can feel more confident that by taking bold steps now to defend ourselves and to defend our fellow democracies, we are not being provocative but prudent. And as America's first president, George Washington, put it back in 1790, to be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace. So let's address a couple of myths. Myth number one is that anger is a leading cause of wars. In fact, the leading cause of war isn't anger, but optimism. It is overweening optimism on the part of aggressors that actually causes wars. Myth number two is the idea of the accidental war. A careful reading of history shows that there is no such thing as an accidental war. While it's true that accidents and mishaps happen, sometimes lethal mishaps, they can serve as useful pretexts for war, but they do not actually lead countries to decide to go to war. Countries go to war because they believe, often erroneously, that they can achieve more through war than they can through peaceful efforts like diplomacy. So let me unpack these couple of assertions that I've just made. First, the assertion that optimism is the leading cause of war; history tells us that this is so. One of the easily overlooked facts about World War I was that it was preceded by a high degree of optimism by so many of the main participants. While it's true that there were a lot of grim premonitions in the summer of 1914, that a collision between Europe's industrial giants would be highly destructive, it's also true that in capital after capital on both sides of the conflict, leaders were confident that the war would be short and that victory would be certain for their side. German military leaders estimated that Germany would mostly or completely defeat France within 4 to 6 weeks, and that the Germans would still have plenty of forces to spare to go with Russia as well, irrespective of whether Britain joined the fight against Germany. Across the English Channel, most British ministers also expected a short war, but with the roles of victors and losers reversed, they thought that Germany would suffer a decisive defeat within a matter of months. In Russia, the Czar was anxious about how a war might turn out, but his war minister publicly and privately conveyed his belief that Russia would trounce Germany within a few months, and most Russian ministers agreed. Of course, the war actually went on to last four years and to kill 20 million people, half of them civilians, another 21 million people were wounded.

So misplaced optimism of a quick and decisive victory precedes wars time and again throughout history. Vladimir Putin was so confident that Russian military superiority would prevail last February that he didn't even bother to inform most of his Army commanders that they were being sent into war. On the eve of the conflict in late February, most Russian units on Ukraine's border believe they were participating in mere exercises, and they carried only a few days worth of rations. So this is a common delusion at the outset of wars. It's the idea that the troops will be home by Christmas, right? It's an idea that was indulged by German leaders alike back in 1914, by American presidents in Korea in 1950 and in Iraq in 2003. So overweening optimism isn't merely an ironic footnote of history, it is itself a cause of wars. The Melbourne based historian Geoffrey Blainey wrote in his seminal book, The Causes of War, that "this recurring optimism is the vital prelude to war." Now, none of this is to say that anger doesn't matter. Anger definitely contributes to tensions in international affairs. Diplomatic slights or wounds to national pride and other injuries can induce anger or even hatred. But relations between countries can be extremely tense for decades without producing war. It is the optimism, specifically the optimism that important political objectives can be gained through war, that cannot be gained through peace, that actually produces a decision to wage war. So there's a lesson in this for us, and especially for the U.S.-Japan alliance. As Blainey puts it, "anything which increases that optimism is a cause of war, anything which dampens that optimism is a cause of peace." The United States and Japan should be doing everything in our power right now to dampen Beijing's optimism about war, because we can see signs in Beijing that they're indulging the same kind of misplaced optimism today that European leaders did on the eve of World War I. We see signs that Beijing believes a war over Taiwan would be very short and very successful for Beijing. Tokyo and Washington must urgently work together to puncture that seductive optimism that's currently afflicting Beijing. Now, the second myth I'll address is the myth of accidental wars.

A decade ago, then-Vice President Joe Biden told his Chinese counterpart, then-Vice President Xi Jinping, that "the only thing worse than a war is an unintentional war." Now, President Biden and members of his cabinet have recently been repeating that phrase, including in the context of the Taiwan Strait, where U.S. and Taiwanese and Chinese military ships and planes are coming into closer and closer proximity with one another. In a major policy address in May, secretary of state Tony Blinken said the Biden administration has "prioritized crisis communications and risk reduction measures with Beijing in order to prevent an unintended war." Now, secretary Blinken's and President Biden's fear of accidents and mishaps is certainly well-warranted and communications channels are also welcome. But a military mishap is a good example of something that might serve as a pretext for war, but not a cause. "No wars are unintended or accidental," as Blainey wrote in his book after he'd investigated the causes of all of the wars of the last 400 years. What is often unintended is the length and bloodiness of wars. Defeat is certainly accidental and unintended. But not the decision to go to war, which is a deliberate one on the part of an aggressor nation. Now American and European diplomats and German journalists reflectively assume that more hotlines and communication channels are the key to preventing a mishap from spiraling into war, failing to recognize that if war follows a mishap, it won't be because of a misunderstanding, quite the opposite. It would be because one side, in this case, Beijing, makes an intentional decision that it is an advantageous moment to fight a war that it's actually been rehearsing for decades and which Beijing believes will pay big dividends. Beijing understands this fact better than Washington does. And that may be why Beijing, in contrast with Washington, has made virtually no mention of accidental or unintentional wars in its official statements and its internal propaganda. In fact, the only examples I could find of Chinese commentators using the phrase accidental war were articles pointing out that top U.S. officials are preoccupied with this idea. So in other words, the U.S. fixation on mishaps and hotlines may be inadvertently increasing the likelihood of war by fueling Beijing's optimism that the U.S. is too afraid to intervene in a Taiwan conflict.

The lesson here, again, is that Tokyo and Washington shouldn't be concerned with an accidental war with Beijing, but with an intentional one that Beijing decides to launch. So, I think that we can look to Japan's late Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, who just recently had his funeral in Tokyo. And, when his vision emerged in his speech back all the way in 2007 in India, the first time that he served as prime minister, he called back then for a broader Asia that would stand not only the Pacific, but the Indian Ocean as well, what he called "seas of freedom and prosperity, which will be open and transparent to all." In Prime Minister Abe's second term, he developed those ideas into what he called a free and open Indo-Pacific. And that idea has really captured the imagination of that region. It became the name of the U.S. strategy for the region under both President Trump and under President Biden. And I think we should heed many of the warnings that Prime Minister Abe was talking about before he was very tragically gunned down. And he was talking about the need for Japan and for the U.S., Taiwan, and other allies and partners to prepare for the possibility of a conflict with Beijing and to state more clearly our intentions to fight if Beijing takes such a fateful and mistaken step as to try to invade Taiwan. So with that, I'll pause and welcome a conversation on the remarks that I've just made and anything else that's on your mind.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

Thank you very much, Matt, that helped set everything up here. Let me dive right in with some questions. But before doing that, for the audience, I'm going to ask Matt a few questions here. If anyone in the audience does have a question for him, please submit it in the Q&A box at the bottom of the screen and I'll get to those momentarily. Matt, you walked through two myths, two primary myths that we should be thinking about. There are obviously a host of opinions and commentary right now on what countries can draw from Russia's invasion of Ukraine and then inviting natural comparisons with a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Let me start by focusing on Taiwan and ask a question of what do you think is the most important lesson that Taiwan should be drawing from what we see happening in Europe right now? And is there a lesson that you feel is not being recognized as much as it should? You did touch on these two myths, and that's an important thing for leadership in Taipei. But are there any other lessons that you think Taiwan should be drawing that you don't see a lot in the conversation?

Matthew Pottinger

Yeah. Jeffrey, I think the first and most important lesson that Taiwan could draw is the will to fight. That is the will to defend one's home, one's liberty, one's sovereignty is the single most important factor in both deterring, or if necessary, winning a war. And Ukraine has taught that lesson, retaught that lesson to the whole world, including to us here in the United States. I think most Americans had very grim assessments of how well Ukraine would fare in combat against the mighty conventional forces of Russia. As it's turned out, the Ukrainians are defeating Russia. They are in the process of defeating Russia right now. And it was more than anything else, the will to fight that was the the decisive factor here. Now, it's very hard. You know, Liddell Hart and others have commented, other theorists about warfare, that will is the cheap, incalculable. It's very hard to measure will in advance of a war. But we do know that there are things we can do, that a society can do, to train that will to harness and sharpen will. And that is, more than anything, about mobilizing society, not just relying on on the volunteer forces and professional forces in the military, but really training much more broadly the reserve forces of a society. Taiwan has a massive reserve force, but a tiny, active duty professional military. What I think Taiwan should draw from Ukraine examples, the importance of hard, realistic, broad-based training of its active duty forces, its reserve forces, and other forces, call them territorial defense forces and other volunteer forces, that could actually make a war quite nightmarish for invading Chinese forces where even if they were able to get a foothold on the beaches, they would have to fight for every city block, every suburb and farm, and also in the mountains, the incredible and very formidable mountain terrain in Taiwan. So that would be the number one lesson I would draw.

The second is that while Taiwan is much harder to invade than Ukraine was, given the challenges of an amphibious assault and the very formidable terrain that Taiwan enjoys. The flip side of that is that it's also very hard to resupply an island, and Taiwan will not have the benefit that Ukraine has enjoyed of open and free supply lines to friendly nations on its border. That means that the resupply, so to speak, of Taiwan has to preceed combat. And there's quite a lot of work to be done and Japan I think has a very large role to play in this, certainly the U.S. does. I think other allies and friends around the world need to find ways to provide Taiwan quickly with the types of munitions that it needs to stockpile and distribute that would threaten Chinese ships and aircraft to make Beijing think thrice in the Chinese term before before committing to combat.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

So let me shift then. You point out here some things about Taiwan, lessons that they need to focus on. Let me, given your deep background on China, let me flip and ask you a few mainland China\xe2\x80\x93related questions. The first has to do with the stakes involved. You briefly touched on this in your remarks about the optimism that a leader would have to have. Putin is the sole architect of the war in Ukraine. And as Russia's invasion continues to be rolled back, there are many analysts that are discussing what may befall Putin should Russia ultimately lose and declare failure. I'd like to ask you to provide for our audience an understanding of the stakes involved for Chinese leadership, should they decide to initiate a war against Taiwan? In other words, when you think about a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, what are the stakes at play for Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party?

Matthew Pottinger

Yeah. So Jeffrey, what are the lessons Beijing should be drawing from from this Ukraine action? But one thing I want to mention, you're right that Putin is the sole architect of the war in Ukraine, but Beijing is its underwriter. Beijing is its underwriter. And we know more about that as if we needed to know any more than what we already knew when Beijing signed this unlimited pact, this no limits pact between Xi Jinping and Putin on the eve of the war. We now know, thanks to a leaked video by the Russians of Xi Jinping's emissary, Lijan Zhao,meeting with the Russians last month that Beijing strongly supports this war, believes that this is a correct war, that Ukraine should have been attacked, deserve to be attacked. He said in his comments that this was a necessary war, that Russia was cornered by Europeans and by the United States, and that Russia had to conduct a quote unquote "counterattack" against against Ukraine and the West. Lijan Zhao also said that China is providing support and coordination for this war. The word he used in Chinese is soybean, which is a technical term in Chinese. It doesn't appear in regular daily discourse. It's a martial term that you see in classical military writing in Chinese that refers to military support and coordination. And Li said China will continue to provide that support. So this is Beijing's war almost as much as it is Putin's war. And I don't think that Xi is backing away from Putin, far from it. I think that he's about to double down on Putin precisely because he knows that the the the costs for Beijing, if Putin loses the war and and is perhaps even deposed, will be extremely negative for Beijing generally, but for Xi Jinping personally, given that this is really a personal imprint, this ten-year policy of no limits alliance in a sense between Beijing and Russia really is a top down personal policy driven by Xi Jinping, where he is the senior partner in a kind of role reversal from the Cold War model where the Soviets back in the 1950s were the senior partner and Beijing sent its young boys to go die on the Korean Peninsula as the junior partner to Joseph Stalin.

Those roles are reversed, but the consequences will be extremely grave, potentially, for Beijing if Putin loses, which again is why we must win the war. One of the roads to protecting Taiwan and hopefully deterring a war there runs through Kiev and Moscow. We have to ensure that Ukraine is victorious in this war because that will have knock on effects that will actually be positive for Taiwan. Now, Xi Jinping, should he lose, make the fateful step to launch a war over Taiwan and fail in that mission, I think that could spell the beginning of the end, not only for Xi Jinping personally, but for the Chinese Communist Party's monopoly on power in general. And it's why I think Xi is not going to roll those dice until he is quite confident that he will win. And that's why our task, Japan's task, the U.S. task, Australia, Taiwan, other free nations need to work together as well as individually to puncture that sense of optimism that seems to be building up or that has been building up in Beijing and which could lead Xi to roll those dice. We don't want him to roll them. We want him to understand that the day that he fires a shot, he's not just going to be facing Taiwan's small volunteer military. He's going to be facing a unified alliance with far more capability as a whole than Beijing has militarily.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

So let me carry on this discussion. You're talking about China's support of Russia's war, but we also see more cooperation or collaboration among the two. On the day before the Beijing Winter Olympics, Russia reaffirmed its support for the one-China principle and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. As you mentioned, Beijing has been supporting the war in Ukraine. We've seen them embracing pro-Kremlin narratives. We've also seen in the East China Sea area, there has been an increase in joint military exercises between the two. Most recently, we've seen some vessels encircling Japan. When you look, if we switch our focus from Europe to the East China Sea region, when you look at these statements, these activities, is there any there there concerning about Russia's support of China in a potential future conflict in the Taiwan Strait, or is this just a lot of showmanship that you think when the day the balloon goes up, that this is purely China and that Russia's going to sit back on this one?

Matthew Pottinger

Well, I think that in a scenario where Russia dominates Ukraine and actually consolidates its unilateral illegal annexation of those oblast sort that it extends its annexation of Ukraine, that that gives Beijing an example that it can point to try to bully and psychologically intimidate the rest of the world into backing off from resisting Beijing's ambitions in Taiwan. We know that they're trading with Russia much more than they used to. We know that they've just, for example, exchanged satellite base stations in each other's countries to give each other the ability to use one another's satellite constellations in war. It's certainly true that Beijing expects support of some kind from Russia in pursuing Beijing's own so-called "core interests." Xi Jinping made a statement to this effect right after he met with Putin in Uzbekistan last month. So the extent to which there is psychological and symbolic and diplomatic support or even direct military support from Russia. Both of those things are contingent upon Putin winning his war of aggression in Ukraine, which is why if he loses that war, as he must, it kneecaps a key pillar of Beijing's strategy for annexing Taiwan.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

So let me shift a little bit here and ask you a few U.S.-related questions. President Biden now has on four occasions said that the U.S. would defend Taiwan in different ways. While many initially chalked these statements up to initially being gaffes, the consistency with which he has stated it, including a taped interview, has led some to think that this is intentional. So the question here is, do you think we are witnessing a shift in U.S. policy to something that is neither strategic ambiguity nor strategic clarity, potentially ambiguous ambiguity? Do you see something happening here that we should be aware of?

Matthew Pottinger

Yeah, I mean, I you know, I may have more faith in the intentionality of President Biden's statements than some of his spokesmen do. But yes, I think these were certainly intentional statements that he made. I've read carefully each of the four statements. You know, the third time he made the statement that he would defend Taiwan, he was actually visiting Tokyo earlier this year. If you read the context of his comments to the press and read the lead up to his answer to the question, would you defend Taiwan? It's very clear that he has on his mind the importance of it restoring more credible deterrence in the Taiwan Strait in light of the fact that deterrence failed in the Ukraine situation. President Biden, I think, did make some some early mistakes in in speaking so frequently about what he would not do. President Nixon used to give a little laminated card of ten lessons of leadership to all of the subsequent presidents who served after Nixon before he died. And one of the lessons is never broadcast what you will not do. And so President Biden maybe didn't get that card or he forgot it. But I think what he's doing right now is is making up for that early oversight back in February by making, I think, a very clear statement of intent that that the United States under his command as commander in chief, will come to Taiwan's defense in the event that Beijing, again makes the terrible decision to go to war there.

Now, whether that constitutes some kind of an official formal policy shift. I think that's almost a red herring, that debate. I think that he has made an important statement of his intent. And the equally, or actually more important, thing that needs to follow is an increase in capability, both in shoring up Taiwan's capability, shoring up U.S. capability in the Western Pacific, ensuring and working together with Japan to ensure that Japan rapidly increases its own capabilities and makes maybe its own clear statements of intent about what it would do in the event of a war. Those are the really critical steps that must follow, which are long overdue and which Beijing is going to believe more than it might believe statements by the President. Seeing is believing, if Beijing sees that we're putting facts on the ground, so to speak, if we are actually increasing capability, if we are training together in much more effective ways than we have in the past together with our friends in Taiwan and certainly with our allies in Japan, not to mention South Korea, not to mention Australia and others. Those are the sorts of steps that will inject friction into Beijing's ambitions and its war plans.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

So let me pick up on what you just mentioned there in your last sentence about allies. Do you think our allies and partners are interpreting President Biden's statements as clear as you are, or do you think that there is some confusion about where the U.S. policy is and what it means for our allies and partners in the region?

Matthew Pottinger

Look, we don't know how Beijing is interpreting his statements. Again, capability is a great substitute for statements of intention that might seem ambiguous or which Beijing may interpret as a bluff. And so I really like to see the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Defense and the Japanese diet and leaders in Japan putting capability on the ground right now along the first island chain, helping Taiwan acquire the stockpiles that it needs right now to badly complicate Beijing's war plans. Those are the most important things we could be doing right now. Those are the most important debates that we should be having, as opposed to really tying ourselves in knots over strategic ambiguity and strategic clarity.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

Let me ask one more question from my own list here before I turn it over, because we do have a number of questions from the audience that have come in now. Early on in the war in Europe, as you mentioned, President Biden signaled what he would not do. There were commentators and analysts that started to question U.S. resolve or credibility, if an actor is not a treaty ally, which brought similarities to Taiwan not being a treaty ally to the United States. Do you feel that this is a superficial analysis or is there some truth there that we should be paying attention to it? From a national security standpoint about what the U.S. is willing or not willing to do? And more importantly, what conclusions do you think Beijing is drawing from the U.S. not responding in a more direct manner against helping a country that is not a treaty ally?

Matthew Pottinger

Yeah, there's no doubt that Beijing has taken note of the fact that President Biden stated early this year, as the conflict in Ukraine unfolded, that he did not want to go toe to toe with a nuclear power and risk World War III. I've heard less of those sorts of remarks, and I think that that's welcome. What we do when we express that view is we telegraph fear and really open ourselves up to nuclear blackmail in ways that I think are counterproductive, not only in the context of Europe, but in the context of the Western Pacific. And so it's better for us to not telegraph anxiety about nuclear war or anxiety about an accidental war, which, as I mentioned in my remarks, is kind of a false concept to begin with. And instead, we need to be showing that we understand what the stakes are, because we should be talking more about what's at stake. The stakes couldn't be higher right now in Europe and in the Western Pacific. If we were to cave or if we were to signal that we are ambivalent and anxious, that might be the sort of thing that fuels that overweening optimism I talked about that leads countries to go to war and leads to mistaken calculations about how easy and how long a war might last.

So we really need to be looking at what Russia and Beijing are doing together, what they're doing in an actual war in Europe, and in a potential war in Taiwan, and to make that our guiding principle, the thing that organizes us. I think that the cost of a war in Taiwan, should we end up watching Taiwan subjugated and conquered, the impact that that would have on American power, on our alliances, and on the ability of of our allies in the region to maintain democratic systems of government. The impact on our prosperity, collectively, particularly with the collapse of the semiconductor supply chains, would be pretty devastating. It would be like COVID, only longer. And so we need to be talking more about what's at stake to help demonstrate to Beijing that we understand that this is the kind of thing that is actually worth fighting for. And hopefully, they'll start to understand that it could end up being the worst and last mistake that they ever make, Chinese leaders, if they do undertake this war over Taiwan.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

So with that, we have a number of questions here. And some of these are clumped together, but the first question I want to ask is something I've done my own research on and written a lot about this. And the question is if there's an invasion of Taiwan, what exactly happens under the U.S.-Japan alliance in response? Because it's often hard to get clarity to the question about not what should be done, but what do you think will actually happen? And as the questioner asked, welcome your thoughts on what you think would likely be here.

Matthew Pottinger

Well, this is where I want to hear from some of our Japanese colleagues who are attending today, some of their thoughts about that. What I do know is that if Japan enters the war with the United States, it will be extremely difficult for China to succeed in its aims. Given that that's the case, why not make a little bit clearer or maybe even a lot clearer that that would be the outcome? That the United States and Japan would both fight together side by side, that we've done enough tabletop exercises and actual real world exercises to show Beijing what that might look like in ways that I think would would make important demonstrations of how much more complicated Beijing's planning becomes if Japan is in the war. I think Japan has to recognize that this is what's at stake for itself. You know, we've looked at Chinese doctrine, military doctrine, and it talks about Taiwan not as something that needs to be taken for its own sake, but Chinese military doctrine talks about the importance of taking Taiwan so that China can threaten Japan. And, in the words of PLA officer manuals, undermine Japan's ability to wage war or even feed itself. In other words, the taking of Taiwan provides Beijing with a much easier opportunity to blockade Japan and to interfere with sea lanes that provide Japan with all of its essential inputs and raw materials for energy and food and for its high tech economy. So the stakes are actually higher for Japan than they are for even the United State if Taiwan were to fall. Given that that's the fact, why not learn a lesson that we all should have learned from the failure of deterrence in Ukraine by making clear that we are willing to assume significant risk and to incur significant costs in order to prevent the annexation of Taiwan? Then we'd have a better chance of actually doing what we failed to do in Ukraine, which is to deter an extremely destructive war.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

So let me pick up on that deterrent issue, because there's a question from the audience that links in directly to what you were just saying. Obviously, Japan in recent years has been acquiring a lot of different kinds of defense equipment. It's also heavily investing in different technologies. There's a debate in Japan right now about acquiring strike capabilities. The question from the audience is: will technology development investments in these advanced technologies, do these complicate Beijing's calculations, or are we already past the point where new technologies, new equipment can serve as that deterrent? In other words, you think about Beijing's planning. Are they already considering that Japan is going to ente, it will have strike, and that's already part of the planning? Or do these new procurement decisions by Tokyo really complicate things for China?

Matthew Pottinger

Beijing, I think, understands that were Japan to enter the war, Beijing would have a much slimmer chance of actually succeeding in annexing Taiwan. So Beijing strategy is to keep Japan out of the war, to drive a wedge between the United States and Japan. Personally, I have little doubt about what Japan would do in the event of a war. I think Japan will enter because it will then become painfully obvious to the broader Japanese society that the cost of the war would be far higher than any costs incurred from coming to Taiwan's defense. I think Japan will enter the war if Beijing takes that fateful step. My point is that it would be to our advantage to be more vocal about the fact that Japan would enter the war in advance so that we actually have a shot at deterring that that conflict. Now, the types of capabilities that Japan is acquiring, I think, are formidable. I think that these are the types of anti-ship missiles and air-to-sea missiles and anti-air capabilities. These are all very formidable capabilities that we need to see distributed across the first island chain. I think that the example from Ukraine is that technology does play a really important role. It's more than anything else, the will to fight. But when you when you arm that will with new capabilities, things like the HIMARS rocket artillery system that we've seen put to such tremendously effective use in the Ukraine theater, the use of drones to target the use of manned portable anti-air missiles, javelin anti-aircraft missiles or rather anti-armor missiles.

So some of those same weapon systems and other weapon systems that are more adapted to countering an amphibious assault could wreak absolutely horrendous damage to Beijing's fleet in the event of a war. So I actually think that Japan is looking at the right capabilities. They're starting to plus up on those capabilities, but time is of the essence. Beijing right now I think probably perceives that it has a window of opportunity that is already opened and which will eventually close, where it has the opportunity to use advantages that it's accumulated over decades before those advantages are offset by the types of things that the United States, Japan, and Taiwan are talking about doing, but have not yet followed through in executing it to the level that I think is necessary to deter the conflict.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

So a question that just came in was instead of looking just at deterrent capabilities, more of the political dimension of thinking in Beijing, and we see a lot of analysis and commentary recently about whether Xi Jinping's next term, if this is going to correspond with a potential invasion of Taiwan. And the question really is bringing that together and how close do you think a cross-strait war is coming when you think about Xi Jinping's next term and sort of his political life span?

Matthew Pottinger

I think the world has collectively underestimated Xi Jinping or at least had underestimated him for a very long time. If you read Xi Jinping's own speeches, the internal facing speeches, which are often kept secret from for weeks or months or years, but eventually appear in Chinese language\xe2\x80\x93only journals and things of that nature. When you read these things carefully, it's hard not to acquire a far greater appreciation for the sheer scope of his ambition. In some of the books that were published in recent years that describe Xi Jinping's thoughts. These are internal Chinese military textbooks studied by the generals studying at the Chinese National Defense University. Books that are not meant for foreign eyes and books which were turned up by a Washington, D.C., scholar named Ian Easton, who included some writing about these books in his most recent book. We find that the ambition is not merely to sort of crowd the United States out of Asia, it is to remake global governance in an authoritarian and hierarchical manner that puts the Chinese Communist Party at the pinnacle of world power. In these books, they state explicitly that the Westphalian concept of nation states is outdated and needs to be replaced, and so does the idea of a balance of power. It is outdated, according to Xi Jinping thoughts, and needs to be replaced with a new hegemony with Beijing at the top of the mountain.

So when you take all these things into account, you start to realize that Taiwan is not a narrow ambition for Beijing. It is actually the first step in a much broader ambition to remake global governance and really cause democracies to be incapable of defending themselves, standing up for themselves, to cause alliances, to shatter and dissolve. You know, this is the vision. I'm not saying that that's the vision he's going to be able to to achieve. It'll be over my dead body, but the ambition is real. So you've got to actually at least acknowledge and appreciate the extent to which this really is the ambition that he's seeking to pursue.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

So let me tie that in with another question, this is all flowing perfectly together here. And one of the questions asks about trying to contextualize the discussion on Taiwan in terms of what we see happening with China's greater expansion in other places in the Indo-Pacific, such as the Solomon Islands, activities that we see in East Africa. Could you contextualize, you just spoke about China's sort of broad thinking, but are we missing the small pieces here? We see a lot of activity happening here and there and it pops up in the news. But from what you're saying, it's all tied together as part of a broader thinking by leadership in Beijing?

Matthew Pottinger

Certainly. That's why I actually believe, you know, many people thought that that Putin's troubled invasion of Ukraine probably signals that that Xi is less likely to go to war over Taiwan. I actually take the opposite view for the following reason. If you look at the grand vision that Beijing and Xi Jinping specifically have laid out in their key speeches, the speech that Xi gave in 2012, ten years ago, which was secret, but it leaked out, where he tells the parable of the collapse of the Soviet Union and how he is going to make sure that China does not make the mistake the Soviet Union made by basically creating a totalitarian dictatorship that will control all the tools of dictatorship so that the party never loses its monopoly on power. You look at the speech he gave January 5th, 2013, which was kept secret for six years, where he says our mission is to basically wipe capitalism from the face of the earth and for the ultimate triumph of socialism as defined by the Chinese Communist Party. You look at the speech he gave, which for some reason got no press attention in the West, on the 11th of November last year and which was published on January 1st in Chinese language only, where Xi said "we are undeterred and undeterrable and we must study Mao and study the Korean War." And he said "we must throw one punch now to avoid having to throw 100 punches later." And we must be willing "to ruin our country internally in order to rebuild it anew." So he was quoting Mao in the context of 1950 going into the Korean War, but he was quoting them in the current context.

So, I mean, once you tune in and listen to what Xi is telling the leadership of his country, you start to see that Ukraine is the first step in a sequence of events of which Taiwan, he plans for that to be one. But these other things are all part of the sequence grand strategy as well. That's why he's in the Solomon Islands, it's why he tried to build a naval base before we blocked it in Papua New Guinea. This is where Japan began its effort to conquer the Pacific on those same two islands. It's why he's not just looking at the east coast of Africa, but the West Coast, and that is the Atlantic coast of Africa to establish a naval base. It's why he's already established a military base in Argentina. The disgraceful decision by the Argentinean leader to allow China to set up a space base that would allow it to track and perhaps even target missiles arriving from the South Pole and coming towards North America. So once you see all these little dots, you really do start to make a constellation of some kind. It's our job to make sure that he doesn't connect those dots in ways that would would pretty much end our way of life. I think we can win this, quite frankly. But it starts with recognizing the scope of ambition, and taking steps that hopefully will contain this confrontation to a Cold War and not a hot war. It's already starting to turn hot in Europe.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

So let me ask, moving from the hard deterrent capabilities and you mentioned a lot of the sort of the broad strategic element here, let me ask you a question based off of one of the audience questions about sort of countering the information war. Beijing has been emphasizing that Taiwan has always been part of China since for a long time past. Is there anything that the U.S., Japan, and other like-minded countries can do to counter that narrative? And is there anything, especially when we see Beijing making progress in flipping some countries' diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, it's all part of a broader informational discourse that Beijing is pushing. But is there anything that the allies and other like-minded countries can do to counter that information war?

Matthew Pottinger

Yeah, certainly. I mean, first we have the advantage that we don't actually have to lie the way that Beijing and Russia do. Their strategy is disinformation, ours merely needs to be a strategy of ensuring actuall information, countering disinformation at home, and also extending the reach of real debate and information and news and history and context to China's diaspora, the Russian people, and people inside of China's borders. So I think that that muscle memory atrophied soon after the Cold War ended. It really ended after the Reagan-Bush era and we need to strengthen those muscles again. They need to be both defensive and offensive. We need to actually provide tools by working more closely with Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley, it's taken about two decades too long, but finally Silicon Valley firms are being disabused of the idea that they have any shot of ever acquiring market share in China. Facebook, Google, and Twitter are never going to be welcome there. So they really have nothing to lose by partnering with free countries and with the democratically elected governments of free countries to provide tools that will extend the reach of information to Chinese diaspora communities and into China itself.

At home, we need to really come up with a urgent but creative set of regulatory and legal theories to deal with China's own platforms which spread disinformation and which have acquired huge followership in the United States and in other free countries. This is crazy, I mean we basically allowed for example, one social media platform, TikTok, to become the dominant platform in the United States when that platform is run by a Chinese company called Bytedance, whose editor in chief, let me say this again, the editor in chief of Bytedance doubles as the Communist Party secretary for that company. And the Chinese Communist Party is currently reviewing all of the algorithms of China's platforms to make sure that those algorithms comport with the the goals and objectives of the Chinese Communist Party. Meanwhile, we've got 100 million young Americans who seem to be hooked on those platforms. This is insanity on our part, and it's something that can be dealt with, all it would require is will. There are ways to deal with these kinds of platforms that are wholly in tune with our Constitution and these are steps we need to take defensively to prevent basically the Communist Party from being the editor in chief of most of the content that young Americans see today.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

Matt, I have one last question here as we close out your session, this is fantastic, but the last question gives you a chance to look into your crystal ball on U.S. policy regarding China and Taiwan. And the question has to do with looking at the midterms. Do you see if the Republicans take control of the Senate, do you expect any change in U.S. policy regarding this issue? Like, do you expect any further stepping up pressure on China? Do you expect the U.S. asking Japan to do more with its spending or more clarity in its involvement?

Matthew Pottinger

Well, look, I think one of the the notable aspects of President Biden's foreign policy is that when it comes to China, there's a high degree of continuity from the Trump administration. You saw that just on Friday when the Biden administration unveiled very significant restrictions on the export of American technology to China's supercomputer and supercomputer sector, its semiconductor sector. These are all steps that are really reactive steps by the U.S., belated reactive steps, but nonetheless steps that that are going to make us safer and that are going to contribute to deepening the tech sector decoupling that Beijing inaugurated years ago and which we're now waking up to. I think that if you have a House of Representatives that flips Republican, I expect to see quite a lot of legislation emerge that is very much in tune with all these broader themes that we've seen emerge over the last five or six years, but which would accelerate that process. Having Republicans control the gavel and committees and so forth means that they can scrutinize more publicly and in more depth some of the steps that the Biden administration is taking or which it's failing to take. So I think generally what you're going to see, irrespective of whether it's just the House of Representatives or both the House and Senate flipping Republican is an acceleration, a deepening of those trends that are already etched onto the map, really courtesy of Xi Jinping. He's really the one that kicked off this competition and the U.S. now has a consensus at home to compete ourselves.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

Well, Matt, I do want to thank you. This has been a wonderful hour of hearing your thoughts on this complicated issue of what the U.S. and Japan should be thinking about and overall just the context of everything. If this was an in-person event right now, we would be applauding and thanking you very much.

Matthew Pottinger

Thank you, it's an honor and and I hope to get to Japan relatively soon. There's a chance that I may be there pretty soon. It's been too long. Really, really great to see friends from both sides of the Pacific here today. So thanks for making time.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

Thank you, Matt. Thank you very much. Okay, I would now like to turn to the broader discussion, looking at the view of the Taiwan Strait from the perspective of the U.S.-Japan alliance. And for that, we've assembled three excellent scholars that will give us different conversations looking at this issue from different perspectives. I'm going to introduce each of them briefly prior to their remarks going in the order that they will present. And so I will start first with my RAND colleague, Mr. Cortez Cooper, who is a senior international defense researcher at the RAND Corporation and an affiliate faculty member at the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica. Prior to joining RAND, Mr. Cooper was the director of the East Asia Studies Center for Hicks and Associates. He also served in the U.S. Navy Executive Service as the senior analyst for the Joint Intelligence Center Pacific at U.S. Pacific Command. Before his Hawaii assignment, Mr. Cooper was a senior analyst with Sentry Technology specializing in Asia Pacific political military affairs. Mr. Cooper's 20 years of military service included assignments as both Army Signal Corps officer and a China foreign affairs officer. In addition to numerous military decorations, the Secretary of Defense awarded Cooper with the exceptional Civilian Service Award in 2001. He holds a master's in Asian studies from the University of Hawaii and a bachelor's in psychology from Davidson College. With that, it's a pleasure to introduce my friend, Cortez.

Cortez Cooper

Thanks very much, Jeffrey, and being West Coast-based, I do hope that we get to do this in person in Santa Monica again before too long and I won't have to get up quite so early in the morning, but it's been very much worth it so far and great conversation and pretty much everything I was going to say got said at some point in the past hour with Mr. Pottinger's excellent presentation. So at the risk of being highly redundant, I will resurface some of the issues that he talked about and answering the question that Jeffrey specifically asked me to address in opening the panel today. And that's, what is the importance of Taiwan to the international order and by extension, then or perhaps specifically to the Indo-Pacific region itself? And I will necessarily, I'm sure, step into areas that will be much more effectively and elegantly covered by my colleagues, Matsuda San and Dr. Smith. So I apologize for that in advance.

But to get directly to the bottom line of why Taiwan's important, it's important because it's important to the countries that Dr. Smith and Matsuda San are going to talk about in more detail in a moment. And it's important primarily for the reasons that Mr. Pottinger just covered, and that is that the the possibility of major power conflict between the world's two largest economies, China and the United States, it does itself obviously have significant impact on the international order and on the Indo-Pacific region, and that's the principal issue that that has to be dealt with is the idea that Taiwan might be the proximate cause for major power conflict and probably right now is the single most difficult issue in terms of a global flashpoint for major power conflict. And that in and of itself is the reason why Taiwan is important. But we'll unpack that in a little bit from the perspective of each of the actors involved and for the broader region. And I think to do that, again, this is a good year to be looking at each question because this year is the 50th anniversary of Nixon's visit to China and the signing of the Shanghai Communique. And of course, the Shanghai Communique did not itself normalize relations between the U.S. and China, but it set us on the path to normalization some seven years later. And interestingly enough, by the time that normalization did occur and we were shifting out of the mode of of actually having a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan and recognizing Taiwan as the legitimate government of China shifting over to the People's Republic and the governing authorities there as the recognized official government of China.

At the same time, we were doing that then and in the 1979\xe2\x80\x931980 time frame, we were also, though, still focusing to some extent on Taiwan and responsibilities to Taiwan and continued relations with Taiwan via the Taiwan Relations Act. And so in sort of this dynamic between these documents, the Shanghai Communique and then two other communiques to follow between then and 1982 that we just commonly band together as the three communiques, as opposed to the Taiwan Relations Act. And again, not a formal defense treaty, as we previously had with Taiwan, but still leaving the door open and leaving avenues and paths to defense of Taiwan. And so already in the very beginning of normalized relations between the People's Republic of China and the United States was this friction and a friction that again, has waxed and waned somewhat throughout the years, but that right now is pretty much at a high boiling point. I think that Mr. Pottinger covered very well what that looks like and and why that is. So turning first to China and presenting sort of the view from from Beijing if you will and why Taiwan is important enough that it does in fact potentially bring China into conflict not just with Taiwan but with the U.S. and potentially with its allies such as Japan and Australia. And that lies in the idea that that China has always held and continues to hold Taiwan as a part of China's territory and has never been a country, so you know, various formulations of that. But leaders of the Chinese Communist Party over the years have left them little maneuver room in terms of the official position of the party and therefore the official position of the state and its inhabitants that Taiwan is an inalienable part of of China and not not a separate entity. And then furthermore, that in China's mind established in the international order and in international law, if you will, by the U.N.'s recognition of the People's Republic, sometimes through a logic that may be less than clear, but it's basically an established international norm and Beijing sees it through that lens.

And as Matt indicated, under Xi Jinping as a very powerful leader and one who is about to, we expect, once again put sort of his personal influence and power above what clearly in his mind are more inferior bureaucratic norms to stay on as leader after the next party Congress. Despite this power and perhaps the ability to create some maneuver room on the Taiwan issue, he's not done that, nor will he likely do that. I think we've seen this past August the issuance of a Taiwan white paper that talks about the bright future that awaits Taiwan with unification. And I think what we'll see at the party Congress is more rhetoric which indicates what that future looks like. And it will reinforce what's been called the "bottom line principle" for Xi Jinping, which is the idea that not one inch of of Chinese sovereign territory will be compromised in any way, and that applies most specifically to Taiwan. So pitting that against the U.S. perspective that however the Taiwan Strait issue is resolved, it will not be resolved through use of force and the U.S. has been the principal guarantor outside of China of stability in the strait. I think in that context, we can expect to see after the Congress, increasing coercive activity. The recent coercive activity following following Nancy Pelosi's visit and even before that going back to 2020, there was already a pretty significant uptick in coercive military activity and paramilitary activity around Taiwan, unprecedented since the 1950s, really. If you look from 1954, when there was a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan, into 2000 even after that was long gone, roughly four incursions over what we call the median line in the strait by PLA Air Force fighters. And then four between 1954 and 2000 and then near-daily occurrences of between five and 25 aircraft over the median line following the Pelosi visit.

So, again, I think what we can expect to see, unfortunately, after the Congress is a further uptick in coercive activity. And the concern there and again, we probably have time to dig into this as deeply as we as we need to now, but perhaps in Q&A, as this coercive activity takes up, it is right for us to be very concerned about the idea of actual major power conflict. But it is also very important for us right now. Not just in the U.S., but with with our allies and partners in the region and even on a global scale, to think about how we respond to an uptick in this coercive activity, even if it's short of a major invasion or short of major military operations, because the more likely activity will be, I believe for the future, sort of increase normalization of coercive behavior, even up to something where the Chinese will lay down a principle, as we've seen them do often in the South China Sea of their rights to regulate trade into and out of China, which in their mind includes Taiwan, could lead to something that I think we perhaps sometimes a little too flippantly refer to as a blockade, but it may look a little different. It may be a full blockade, but it could be something short of that that could still be very devastating to the global economy and to Taiwan. With that, I'd like to turn to look at the U.S. side of the equation in ways that it represents, I think, regional and global interests as well. So there's three principal areas there where Taiwan is important. And the first of those, generally stated first, is the top geopolitical concern or issue. And that's just Taiwan's geography as the critical link in what we call the first island chain, running from Japan through the Philippines to the South China Sea. As Matt indicated, major global sea lines of communication and trade are extremely important to our allies, particularly to Japan, but to the region as a whole, that Taiwan is a critical link in that and that Chinese disruption, in short of control, could definitely not just damage the regional economy but has global implications. And secondly, I think it's also been referred to, is the importance of Taiwan to sort of not just the flow of of of trade in goods through these key slots, but it's its importance itself in the free market economy and particularly in the production of high tech semiconductors. And I think it's a very good thing that recently, there's been a lot more deep conversation and discussion about the the impact that would be felt in any number of ways with the disruption of of Taiwan's semiconductor industry.

And we could have a whole separate session on what the answers to that are and both in peacetime, as we're seeing the CHIPS Act and things like that right now, and also in wartime, what would be the implications of the disruption of that? And the third area that I think is cited and I think is not just important rhetorically for the United States, but is increasingly important for actors in the Indo-Pacific, but globally as well. And that is that that the idea of Taiwan as a beacon of democracy. And I think, again, the precedents that would be set for China taking action against a democracy that clearly right now and for very good reasons, has no appetite for finding a diplomatic path to unification, that has no appetite given the events that we've seen in Hong Kong under one country, two systems, a populace in Taiwan that has no appetite whatsoever for thinking about what Beijing would call political motives in their path toward unification. And I think given that that area, sort of the idea that Taiwan does offer us an example of an alternative, a government that exists under however one defines one China or not, that provides that alternative to this idea of autocratic control and whatever model that might offer. So I wanted to make sure to cover that because these are not just, and I'm sure Dr. Smith will get more detail on this, but not just U.S. concerns, but concerns that definitely represent issues important to our allies in Japan and Australia and elsewhere.

On the two other areas I want to cover before wrapping it up, one of those is the idea that Taiwan is important too, because right now it's the fulcrum, if you will, the most important flashpoint, and what I see is a growing deterrence dilemma between the U.S. and China. And this very much affects our allies and we need to see it from both sides of the equation. While we in the U.S. are justifiably concerned about whether we can deter China from taking action at whatever level, actions that we don't want them to take against Taiwan. China, at the same time believes that it's increasingly difficult to deter the U.S. from reinforcing Taiwan in ways that would lead to permanent separation or to independence. And at the same time, the Taiwan part of the equation is where does Taiwan see it, particularly looking at the Ukraine, as we've been talking about, in their ability to introduce caution into Beijing's thinking to deter Beijing from some high end military operations? And then on the other side, Beijing I think is concerned right now that they can't deter Taiwan from taking actions along with the U.S. Partner that will make it incredibly difficult for them to find some sort of political path that would be amenable to and under Beijing's terms. So something to think about right now is how we deal with a deterrence dilemma, particularly in an environment where there's increasing coercive activity by the Chinese and the need to respond to it.

And finally, just on the Ukraine issue and the lessons there, I very much agree with with Matt that I think unfortunately, the lesson that Xi Jinping personally, and therefore the party likely, will take is one that is very similar to the one that was taken from the fall of the Soviet Union, and that is that the Chinese Communist Party will not be trapped into doing the things that a more risk-accepted Russian leadership has been responsible for in the past and currently. And that even though there might be signs of this informational asymmetry that sometimes starts wars, there may be a sign of overoptimism in Beijing, I believe there's still a lot more caution there. And I'm a little more optimistic myself perhaps in that regard and reinforcing that idea that military force against Taiwan is just too risky. I fear that that's not the lesson being taken, but I hope that it is and I think there are ways that perhaps, and I think Matt talked about all of them, there are ways in which we can reinforce that with our allies. So I think with that, I'm probably at time I will close off until until the Q&A period. And Jeffrey and our Japanese colleagues, thanks again for this opportunity.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

Thank you. Cortez. That was wonderful in terms of laying sort of the broad framework here that helped set the tone for our next two presentations. We will first turn to Dr. Matsuda Yasuhiro, who is a professor of international politics at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia at the University of Tokyo. Dr. Matsuda has been at his current position since 2008. Prior to that, he spent 16 years at the National Institute for Defense Studies, or NIDS, at the Ministry of Defense or the Defense Agency prior to that, where he served then as an assistant and later senior research fellow. And back in 2010, he was also a member of the Council on Security and Defense Capability in the New Era, which was an advisory group of the Prime Minister. Dr. Matsuda is a scholar of great breadth, as we all know, and among his many areas of expertise, he is well known for his depth of knowledge in the politics and foreign relations of the PRC and Taiwan, cross-strait relations, as well as Japan's foreign and security policies. Among his many honors, Dr. Matsuda was the winner of the seventh Yasuhiro Nakasone Award of Excellence in 2011, and he received his Ph.D. in law from the Graduate School of Law at Keio University there in Tokyo. Yasuhiro, the floor is yours.

Matsuda Yasuhiro

Thank you. Thank you very much for having me here. Good day, everyone. I feel very honored to have this opportunity to give a talk in front of such distinguished colleagues and audience. Well, Jeffrey gave me specific questions, fourr questions, I'd like to respond each of them. The first question is how does Japan view the Taiwan Strait issue? Basically, the Japanese people, both ordinary citizens and elites, think that this is going to be a very dangerous situation. There are some opinion polls out there. More than 90% of the ordinary citizens think that China may attack Taiwan. They're worried about that. And 70% of the ordinary citizens think that Japan should do something to stabilize the situation. European people are worried about the Russian invasion in Europe, so this is a very unprecedented situation. So many people, when I go back home in Hokkaido, even my mom, 84 years old, lady who is not that concerned about foreign relations or affairs, she is also worried about Taiwan. So this is an unprecedented situation. Almost everyone asked the same question: Matsuda what's going to happen in the crisis in the strait? Well, the experts think that there are two different dimensions. One is China's capability is very high. This situation is quite different from that of 20 years ago and China is pretty confident that it may be a huge miscalculation and misjudgment that China may be successful in invading Taiwan. That's what Matt Pottinger said, I really agree with that. And the second point is that Xi Jinping is an extremely ambitious person.

We have a big question about whether Xi Jinping has clear and good decisionmaking on this issue. We have learned a lot from the Russia-Ukraine war. Globalizing the economy or interdependence are not reliable. Some governments tried to weaponize the interdependence and launch a war. You know, the root cause of this possible warfare is the lack of legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party. So we are really worried that if China's economy gets worse and worse, then China's leadership may try to resort to very extreme actions, it's a big gamble. So that's a major concern. My personal view is a little bit different. Chinese experts don't like to hear the discussions about the Taiwan contingency. They think that this is conspiracy of you know, evil American people. They think that Americans are trying to utilize the fake issue of the Taiwan Strait contingency in order to consolidate its allies, so this is a big issue. First, China's current policy is still a peaceful unification policy, and the second, China doesn't have a full fledged capability to unify Taiwan by force because cost and risk of the Taiwan operation is too high. So, the most probable scenario is to take more time and to pile up the nuclear arsenals and build up enough capability to deter U.S. intervention. It takes time. But on the other hand, China doesn't want to listen to others who say that China is not capable enough. This is quite a contradictory attitude because this discourse will harm their faith. China is not capable because they get mad if they hear this kind of discourse and this kind of discourse can embolden the Taiwanese independence elements. So this is a kind of trap, China entraps itself very deeply. On one hand, China doesn't want to, you know, propagate U.S., Japan, and other Western nations. But on the other hand, China wants to intimidate Taiwan. And these two are completely contradicting motives, and they do military intimidation.

Then U.S., Japan, Taiwan and other nations begin to be worried about Taiwan contingency and and make a decision to increase its defense budget. So, China will condemn those nations. You are having such a conspiracy in order to strengthen yourself and consolidate your allies in order to encircle China, and this is exactly what China triggered. What goes around comes around, this is my view. The second question is has Japan's Taiwan policy changed? The answer is yes and no. Japan's policy toward the Taiwanese strait is the one China perception. One principle in China is very famous, and one China policy in U.S. is very famous. Basically, Japan's attitude is once on a perception. We don't use the word in policy, and this hasn't changed at all. In the joint communique between Japan and China in 1972, it says that the government of the People's Republic of China reiterates, it's said again and again, that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of the PRC. The government of Japan fully understands and respects the stance of the government of the People's Republic of China and it firmly maintains its stance under article eight of the Potsdam Proclamation. This is a kind of mantra, ordinary people never understand that. But the last phrase of article eight of the Potsdam Proclamation means that it refers Cairo Declaration. The Cairo Declaration says that Japan would have to return Taiwan to the Republic of China. So it's totally difficult to understand. But as a result, Japan's attitude is that Japan has not recognized that Taiwan is a part of China. But never challenge China's position and totally no comment about that. This is the official government stance because I'm a scholar, so I'm talking about this. And the relation between Japan and Taiwan is defined as nongovernmental relations, mainly focusing on economic and cultural exchanges. So politics, pure politics and national security relations are kind of taboo. But there are some big breakthroughs, small breakthroughs, because the people in Japan are now quite friendly to Taiwan. This is especially true after the big earthquake occurred in 2011.

The Taiwanese people's donation per capita donation is the highest in the world, more than the Japanese citizens. That's amazing. So, now before the Taiwanese people's affinity for Japan was very strong, but now it's both sides. So people to people, society-to-society relations are very good. So if the Japanese government takes Taiwan too lightly or ignore the Taiwanese, I think that the repercussion will occur from the people and both from the opposition party and from the right wing in the LDP party. So the government of Japan is now very friendly to Taiwan. Now, that's the major situation. However, it is still very difficult for the government to promote more political interaction with the the Taiwanese. And also security relations is very difficult because there are legal restrictions. But other than the traditional security issue, for example, the procurement of the COVID vaccines which occurred last year, that was a very good policy. Japan also produced an AstraZeneca COVID vaccine. At that time, Japan gave 4.2 million doses to Taiwan, and it helped Taiwan because Taiwan was blocked by China, Taiwan couldn't purchase vaccines. And Japan and the United States followed and sent many vaccines. So this is also a nontraditional security area. And Japan can and also has created very good policies about that. Third, what are the Japanese interests in Taiwan or the Taiwanese Strait? Well, first, peace and stability and because a war may occur, so peace and stability. This is a priority. The second, power balance should be a good for Japan. It means that if Taiwan becomes too close to China or simply become part of China, in the case that China is hostile to Japan, that's very bad. The third, the economy in Japan, Taiwan, and China have had very good business cooperation in the region. So I think that these three very important interests and now Japan is quite worried about both the first and the second one, because China may change the fate of war by use of force.

I personally think that Taiwan is the cornerstone of the international order in the postwar Asia Pacific or Indo-Pacific region. If China takes it over by use of use of force, I think that Pax Americana in this region will be over immediately. It means the U.S.-Japan alliance won't work. When the Japanese citizens witnessed the Ukraine war, people felt very uneasy because if the United States only fears nuclear escalation and never helps Taiwan or will not intervene in Taiwan's situation, the Japanese people would feel the same if Japan is attacked by other nuclear weapons states. U.S. simply worries about nuclear escalation and, ask Japan, never retaliates. This is a growing concern in Japan. Actually, in reality, if China attacks Taiwan, at least Okinawa and other places will be entangled. So if U.S. bases in Japan are attacked, Japan should do something, the U.S. should do something. But if the U.S. strategy is to be calm and be patient and never retaliate because what they are afraid of is only nuclear escalation, then I think that our alliance will be over and a U.S. influence in this region will be over. This is our great and growing concern. And our last question is that what is Japan doing to deter possible aggression against Taiwan? I think the direct defense of Taiwan is kind of out of the question. Our policy framework set up in 2015 does not allow the Japanese government to directly defend Taiwan and Japan's capability is not enough. But Japan is left to defend Japan itself and Taiwan contingency will again become Japan contingency immediately. And this possibility is quite high. So if Japan strengthens its defense capabilities, its own defense capabilities, for example, building up more resilience, survivable defense capability and building up more-reliable offensive capability, then China's calculation to attack U.S. forces on Japan will be quite different. The cost and risk of a Taiwan operation will be quite high. So, if Japan declares that Japan would defend Taiwan, that's going to be very, very provocative. But Japan declares that Japan will defend itself, yes, no problem. So I think the basic direction is to fundamentally strengthen Japan's own defense capability and try to deter China's aggression toward somewhere else. That's Japan's policy direction. I understand. Thank you.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

Thank you so much for that. You really gave us the breadth there, going through all the questions and answering them in detail. I will circle back to a couple and the Q&A. Finally, I would like to turn to our last speaker. It's it's really my pleasure to introduce a truly great scholar and someone who I consider a friend, Dr. Sheila Smith. In addition to holding the John Muro, senior fellow for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Dr. Smith is chair of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and U.S. Advisor to the U.S. Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange, which is a binational advisory panel of government officials and private sector members. If those responsibilities were not enough, she also finds time to teach as an adjunct professor at the Asian Studies Department at Georgetown University and serves on the board of its Journal of Asian Studies, as well as the Advisory Committee for the U.S.-Japan Network for the Future Program of Marine and Mike Mansfield's Foundation. And for all of you part watching today, you know that Dr. Smith is a renowned expert on Japanese politics and foreign policy and author of several well-read and often assigned books, including her most recent "Japan Rearmed." Prior to joining the Council on Foreign Relations in 2007, she worked at the East-West Center. Dr. Smith earned her master's and Ph.D. from the political science department at Columbia University. Sheila, the floor is yours.

Sheila Smith

Thank you, Jeffrey, and I am delighted to be here with you and your colleagues from RAND. This is a really important conversation we're having and the danger here is I've been writing notes on my outline of remarks, and I'm not sure I can read my own remarks anymore, but it's been a really rich conversation. I realize I'm also the last speaker. Before we get to the audience Q&A, and you've got a terrific lineup of participants, so let me try to be brief. Some of the points I was going to make have already been made and made very well by Cortez Cooper and Matt Pottinger and Matsuda sensei. But my brief today, interestingly, is U.S. policy rather than Japanese policy, so that's nice. But I wanted to start off, and this is something that in the midst of our current debate over our policy choices, we often forget and it's important to remember that U.S. policy towards Taiwan is a function of multiple relationships, not just one. And again, I think Cortez Cooper gave us an excellent presentation on the first one, which is our diplomatic conversation with the PRC and how we understand our relations not only with them, but how they are influenced by our relationships, our continuing relationship with Taiwan. This is something that even all of our diplomats, our cabinet members repeat over and over again, the language that we've negotiated with Beijing is really important. And it's the same way when I was listening to Matsuda talk about the Japanese language. Really important reference points that we signal our policy consistency. And if you looked at Tony Blinken, Secretary of State Blinken's speech in May, you see him doing the same. And I don't want to go over this too much, but he basically says the U.S. is committed to our one-China policy which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Shanghai communique, and the six assurances. So there is the diplomatic framing. But the second sentence, I think, is as important, and it often gets lost in our conversation these days. But his second sentence is we oppose any unilateral changes of the status quo from either side. We do not support Taiwan independence and we expect cross-strait differences to be resolved peacefully.

And I think I agree with Matt Pottinger that this strategic ambiguity versus strategic clarity is a bit of a red herring, but it also gets very tied up with our military assessment in the region and we forget that we also have a point of view on Taiwan independence. But that's an executive branch framing of the relationship with China. The other actor, we all know this, but it's worth restating, the other relationship here that is vital to understanding U.S. policy, of course, is how the Congress use it. And, of course, the Taiwan Relations Act is a product of congressional interest in our relations with the people of Taiwan and the continuity of our commitment to ensure Taiwan's defenses and security. But the Taiwan Relations Act very clearly uses the language, and I think Cortez used this language in his presentation, which is not just security, but also the social and economic well-being of the people of Taiwan. So again, you have both executive branch and congressional investment in this relationship. The other relationship that we often don't talk about these days is, of course, the political choices of the people of Taiwan. And there is an election coming up. I think we've been very fortunate to have President Tsai Ing-wen be presiding in her capacity as president of Taiwan over these crises as they've been emerging, the increased pressure from Beijing, the increased attention of the world. We have a very reasonable, calm leader in Taipei, and I think that's a really important thing to remember. There will be an election in early 2024. She will not be running in that election and we will have new people. And again, Matsuda knows this better than I, but we will have new people coming to the fore in Taiwan. So everything that we're talking about from a distance in our discussion about cross-straits relations is also feeding into the conversation within Taiwan about its future, and that's another piece to remember.

But I think at the end of the day for American foreign policy, I am less bothered by what the president says and how the the rhetorical architecture of of our State Department then comes back into play. And I am less worried about our congressional leaders going to Taiwan because, in fact, this has always been part and parcel of the U.S. relationship with Taiwan. We have a very deep congressional interest in human rights and the social well-being, so to speak, of the people of Taiwan. And so I think here, I don't think we should be very surprised by the language either of Nancy Pelosi or of our Republican senators and congresspersons as well. So if you're looking for a very pat, clear, one sentence articulation of our policy towards Taiwan, you will find one. You'll find multiple facets of the United States policy engagement and I think that's really important to remember. The real key, of course, Jeffrey, and you guys know this is why we're having this conversation, is that things are changing in and around the structure that we've built for our policymaking on Taiwan. The most obvious, of course, being what everybody here has already pointed out, which is the military balance is changing and has changed significantly. We have been able to assure Taiwan's defenses, largely because we were confident of our own military power and our own military dominance in the region, and that's over the course of the last decade or so, we have become less confident in that balance of forces. Even our Indo-Pacific commanders are very clearly able to articulate their concerns not only about asymmetrical power differences, but also about straightforward questions on blockades, on actual old fashioned war, as we now think of it. But when we look at Russia, where we're thinking it's not so old fashioned anymore.

There's another piece, though, that has changed fundamentally. And I think this is important also to point out, and that is our ability to solve problems with Beijing is far different than it was even during the Obama administration. And it was waning then and it continues to wane now, I think that one of our major challenges, in addition to the military balance, is to find pathways and ways forward to convince China that absent a conversation with us, we can't actually address the stability of the relations across the Taiwan Strait. The third piece that's changing, of course, is that our relationship with this problem is now in the context of major power competition. This is no longer a regional, geographically-focused scenario. This is all about major power war and you don't have to sort of jump to the escalatory path right away. But the reality is you can hear it in the rhetoric that's being used not only by us and our policymakers, both executive and congressional policymakers, but you hear it in the region, you hear it in the NATO summit across the board, that this is now we are now in a frame of reference where this is not a Cold War flashpoint or a residual Cold War flashpoint. This is actually a trigger for a major power war. This is what you have in the national defense strategy of the United States. This is the language in that document that I would say is where you would go to find this language very clearly written out. So that frame is very important, that shift in frame, we take it as a given, but it's worth restating, especially as we start to think about the question of Japan's involvement or other allied involvement in a potential crisis or contingency. There is a whole lot here, and it really came home to me when I was listening to Matsuda's presentation about how Japanese would perceive American behavior. But we have moved out of the old frame of reference for thinking about cross-straits ties here. And then finally, and I am not a China scholar so I am not going to attempt to to be clear on this, but what is also changing is the way we look at the CCP's ambitions, the Communist Party of China's ambitions.

Now, we've always had a debate about this. We've never been of singular mind either here in the United States or between the United States and our allies. This is a pretty rich debate, and I'll leave it to our China scholars. But I think nobody looks at the upcoming party Congress without a great deal of concern about how clearly those ambitions are going to be articulated. Again, these are global ambitions now for China, that wasn't the case five to ten years ago. So this has changed and I can't tell you and others on this panel can whether this is attributable to Xi Jinping or whether it permeates the Chinese state and perhaps even the Chinese people's perception of China's power and its future, so there it is. There are a lot on the board that's changing around this architecture that we've created for thinking about cross-straits relations. I thought I'd say just a couple words, quickly, Jeffrey. It wasn't in your questions to me, but what the Russian invasion of Ukraine, does this mean that U.S. policy towards Taiwan has to change? No, I don't think it does yet. But the Russia-China relationship, and this is something that Matt brought up and I think Jeffrey you brought it up in your questions to Matt as well, it deepens our uncertainty about how we can think about the cross-straits relationship if we have a Russia and China that is as invested. That relationship is deepened and integrated strategically, as Matt Pottinger was describing. I think we have to revisit our basic assumptions about the U.S. approach to Taiwan. If rather, it's more closely aligned with Cortez Cooper, his decision, or at least his impression of Chinese interests, then I think we hold where we are now until we have really much, much more certain evidence that the China-Russia entente, let's just put it that way, is going to be a factor going forward. So the question really is, I don't think it's changed yet, but I think we constantly now have to ask the question of, well, should it? And if so, I think what we should be responding to is not necessarily just Xi Jinping but it is to this question of Russia-China strategic cooperation going forward.

I think there is a systematic questioning of our understandings about the use of force, especially nuclear risk that has come out of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That would take a longer conversation than we can have here. But I think it has reintroduced the question of are nuclear weapons going to become weapons of regular war? In other words, battlefield use, tactical use? Are we going to have to think more carefully about the role of nuclear weapons in the Indo-Pacific, and particularly to a cross-strait relationship? I don't know. But I did write a piece earlier this spring for it on Asia policy. And I think what's been introduced here is this idea of nuclear coercion, the threat of the use of nuclear weapons against Japan, for example, a horizontal escalation in addition to vertical, which is how we in the United States usually think about it, is something to take seriously in the U.S.-Japan partnership. But I think, you know, we've everybody has mentioned this, and I think it's important to just reiterate it. What we're looking at is this question of has the postwar rules, norms and institutions, the rules based order, as we call it in shorthand, is this fundamentally under challenge? And I think the answer is clearly yes. I think our allies believe it is, I think the United States policymakers think it is. And I don't think that would change if we had a different party in power in Washington. I think that's true, but I think it does then put into question the vehicles and processes through which we would garner international support. If there is, let's just say, the use of force across the Taiwan Straits. In other words, would we be able to rely on the U.N. Security Council? No. And I think that's what we're seeing in Europe today. Would we be able to find other mechanisms and means to mobilize international support? We would have to. So right now, the G7 is the venue in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I think similarly speaking, we would need that type of coalition to be built. Maybe it's the same coalition, maybe it's slightly different. But we would be coalition building as we were trying to mobilize support. And I think that's an important piece that sits out there, especially for the U.S. and Japan to think about.

So let me conclude here with a couple of thoughts. Where do we go from here? To answer your interest question, Jeffrey, I think our interests today are exactly the same as they were in 1979. We just have a different context within which we have to consider those interests. We don't have the reliability of American military dominance. We don't have the reliability of a workable leveraged or well-leveraged relationship with Beijing. Taiwan is more attractive today, I think, to Beijing than perhaps it was then and more doable. So the idea that Beijing can use force, I think is what's on everybody's mind. So what do we do? Well, I think if you listen to our Indo-Pacific commanders, they are talking about deterrence, but they're not just talking about deterrence against China's behavior towards Taiwan. They are also talking about deterrence to protect Guam and to protect the American homeland. So that's where that shift in military balance means an awful lot in terms of American military planning. We are not just talking again about a regional focus contingency, we're talking about homeland defenses as well. Pretty important. We want to prevent fait accompli, clearly. Opportunity knocks and I think we've seen this in the island disputes in terms of Beijing's behavior, we've seen it in Hong Kong. Using an opportunity to change the status quo is Beijing's calling card. They are very good at it. So we need to be careful. We need to be careful and identify those fait accompli, whether they're Solomon Islands or they're more specific to Taiwan. But we also then need to communicate to Beijing the rising costs of intervention, and this is what we've all been talking about. We need to make it clear that Beijing understands how expensive this would be should they act. And maybe this feeds into Matt, actually to all of the speakers points here as well, finally, we clearly are developing a coalition approach. I think that's the right approach. I think it needs to be as expansive as we can make it, whether it's NATO Plus, Indo-Pacific allies on the military side of the equation, whether it's the economic security legislation that's been passed in Japan that we now need to integrate South Korea into thinking about with us. There's a host of things we can do and we should be doing them as fast as we can, because this coalition approach, in my view, is the only way to demonstrate this rising cost.

With one last point, if you'll allow me to, is to feed into this question about crisis communications, intentional versus unintentional war. I don't read the Biden administration as only being interested in unintentional war. I think it is the silence and the inability to reach Beijing and to solve problems with Beijing. That silence is is pretty deafening at a time when our strategic competition is so intense. So it is one piece of the puzzle. It is not, I don't think, the Biden administration's sole focus, but I think they are trying to knock on the door to say this could go wrong very badly and will only be interpreted as an intentional war. And so eliminating the unintentional piece is fine, then we can concentrate on what's left. But without that ability to separate out unintentional miscalculation, Chinese fishing boat trawlers, right? Unless you can get that out of the way, then we have no choice but to see at all behavior today as part of this larger intentional ambition of China. And that is also a situation that I think is fraught with danger. So let me stop there. Jeffrey, thank you.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

Thank you. Thank you. All speakers. That was excellent. That was exactly what I had hoped for this discussion. I'm going to kick off the Q&A session with some of my own questions, but I ask the audience to put the questions in the Q&A box, if you have any. I see there's a couple there already. Direct them to the person you are interested in asking if it's for something specific. But let me start by posing one question to each speaker, and I ask you for your brief thoughts on this. I'll start I'll do this in the order of the presentations. And so I'll start with Cortez. There's been a lot of a lot of dates being openly discussed by public officials in the U.S. regarding when a Chinese invasion against Taiwan could be likely or by what date that we're likely to see something. The year 2027 is the year often provided, as one stated by Xi himself. But I feel that this discussion tends to misrepresent the situation and possibly conflate capability with intent. I guess the question I have for you is can you shed any light on why 2027 is the date that we hear often in the public debate? And is this a date about intent or is this a date about capability? What exactly is going on with this?

Cortez Cooper

Okay. So you want me to be brief, Jeffrey? All right. I will try it. It's the latter, I believe. I think you hit on it, it's about capabilities. And interestingly enough, I think this actually goes back to a discussion that that Matt started in terms of the optimism we potentially are seeing in Beijing and perhaps the belief in Xi Jinping's mind that with the level of control he's been able to exercise over the bureaucracy and the rapport he has with the military, that the directives he's given the military will be more or less realized. And I think that that's actually not the case and it predates Xi Jinping. We have to go back to the current strategic guidelines to the PLA which were established in 1993 by Jiang Zemin. And they haven't changed all that drastically since, they've been adjusted by each of the supreme leaders since then and there's new strategies and new ways of defining what they mean by active defense and how they would go about conducting military operations. But generally speaking, there's been a consistency and directness to the military to achieve capabilities. And just as our pacing challenge, as we say it right now, is China and the pacing challenge within that is focused on Taiwan. That's the case also for PLA. So we agree on something there. The PLA's pacing challenge is the Taiwan scenario. Preparations for it, if you look at how the Chinese shorthand for how they would go about conducting various campaigns, whether punitive or whether full invasion, whether blockade, how they would go about it, there have been statements by Chinese leaders over time, to include Xi Jinping more recently, that they recognize a failure to accomplish those goals. We look at it and say, well, they're at least being honest about the things they say their commanders can't do. Yeah, they are. But those statements are also very clear statements to the military from the supreme leader saying you are not accomplishing everything that we directed you to do and you still have significant shortfalls and gaps, particularly when you look at the strong enemy, the U.S., the ability to conduct operations that might involve the U.S.

2027 was a statement by Xi Jinping basically saying that yes, I've set 2035 and 2049 goals for my military, but don't get lazy and think that as a military leader you're going to be retired by then and you don't have to worry about it. He's basically looking at sort of the five-year periods that matter to him and basically saying, "no, by 2027, I want you to have credible capabilities for dealing with the Taiwan problem." I think that's very clear and our leaders I think have said that well. I think where the misunderstanding comes is this idea that we have evidence. As far as I know, we don't. There's nothing clear that I've seen that says there's a timeline. And again, even though the leaders in Beijing have somewhat painted themselves in a box when it comes to Taiwan in terms of the maneuver space they have for adapting policies and approaches. They haven't completely painted themselves in a box, as far as I know, that says we have to do something by this time. And I still see a great deal of evidence from these senior leaders statements that they're very concerned about how far along the PLA is and being able to get to where they want to be. That doesn't make me any any more sanguine about the danger we face in the current environment, but it does tell me that Xi Jinping has felt the need to light a fire under his military and say by 2027, by basically the end of my next term, you need to give me the capabilities and then I can make the decision about what I do with those capabilities. I don't believe that decision has been made.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

Thanks, Cortez. That was providing much needed clarity on that. Let me turn to Matsuda san and currently in Japan, your government is revising three important documents the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Program guidelines, or ... And the medium term Defense program or ... This is going to lay out defense build up and capabilities over the coming years. Can you provide context for our audience on how the Taiwan factor has been playing a role in these discussions that have been going on for a while and sort of how you see Taiwan and what context that Taiwan is playing in these discussions?

Matsuda Yasuhiro

Well, I think that, you know, there are a lot of experts and I think that people are discussing the future scenario or containment contingency and are discussing what kind of capability Japan should have to deal with in such a situation. So I think that that discussion is influencing the discussion inside the government, I believe so. But, especially in the case of a national security strategy, that's a bit diplomatic. So how to name China or how to name Taiwan? That's a very good question. And the Japanese are very good at choosing words. So, for example, in the case of a two plus two communique, we used the word of the importance of the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. The Taiwan Strait and Taiwan are different geographical notions. It's like Japan and the Sea of Japan, so it's different. So I think that that kind of technical adjustment can be done. But the actual meaning is the same, the concern on the Taiwan contingency, I think that that will be written.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

So, Sheila, let me ask you a question here. And you alluded to some of this in your remarks, but as many in the audience know, the U.S.-Japan alliance has been enjoying a continuing strengthening for many years now. We saw a lot happening under the Abe administration. When we think about the Taiwan Strait issue from the perspective of the alliance, we tend to think that our interests are in complete alignment and arguably on a broad strategic level, they are. But the question I have for you is, is there consensus in the alliance about what is to be done and who should do what if a crisis breaks out? In other words, what are the issues you think that you see total agreement and alignment on in the alignments in terms of when the balloon goes up, what needs to be done and where are the other areas that the Allies should be focusing on in peace time to try to iron those issues out?

Matsuda Yasuhiro

Well, this is where you do your work, Jeffrey, so I feel like I could reverse the question to you as well. But, let me start, Matsuda left off with the two plus two language. And I think what what we saw in the two plus two is restated diplomatic language. I think it's the same framing we have always used in the alliance going back to 2005 and our U.S.-Japan common strategic objectives, and that is that we use the diplomatic language. We support peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. But we've also, from 2005 forward, recognized it as a strategic objective, which was new back then. So you're already at the early part of the 21st century, starting to see Japan, the United States, to look with some concern about what might be happening to the military balance across the strait. When it comes to the practical implementation of U.S.-Japan defense cooperation, which is where we focus more minutely on the questions you were asking about how would the alliance operate? What would we expect from Japan? The obvious first one would be the use of Japanese bases and facilities. There is a requirement of the United States to consult with the government of Japan should it use bases and facilities on Japanese territory for combat operations elsewhere. So that's a promise the United States has made. And therefore, those those consultations, I suspect, are already in some ways ongoing in the imagination. But there would be a desire to know exactly how the United States would need facilities, ports, even civilian airfields perhaps, in the case of an actual conflict or crisis. So that's one piece. How would the U.S. flow through Japan, if you will? The second, and this came up earlier, the defense of Japan scenario.

I too do not expect, given the legal interpretation of the limits on the self-defense forces, in addition to the reality of Japan's proximity to the area that may be in a conflict, I think Japan will declare a defense of Japan's situation should there be major power conflict or any threat thereof emerging across the Taiwan Straits or in the East China Sea. And that gives actually Japan a lot of latitude, because what it does then is it allows all three of the Japanese uniformed services to think about how they are going to defend their piece of land, sea, or air in a way also that will be very complementary to U.S. operations in and around. I'm sure everybody on this call listening to this webinar knows, but it's only 150 kilometers, but it is not far from Taiwan to most of Okinawa, right? It's a little further from to Naha where the F-15 squadrons are. But that's an expanse that will affect U.S. and Japanese forces in the southwestern part of Japan. The one piece, Jeffrey, that we don't think about and I don't know how yet the U.S. and Japanese governments are thinking about, but that is the Russia piece. And you brought this up in your question to Matt, and that is the Russians and Chinese are now doing strategic bomber runs around Japan. There is more naval activity. This, of course, has been coming prior to the invasion of Ukraine. But there now has to be a little bit of a calculus about a spoiler role. I can't see the Russians or especially given the capabilities they've got up north of Japan really playing a significant role. But what they can do is make sure the self-defense forces do not draw off and focus completely on that southwestern region. And of course, if you're sitting in Tokyo, you're not going to want to leave the north of your country vulnerable to a Russia that is currently today antagonistic towards Japan. So there's some conversations to be had, in addition to what I brought up earlier about nuclear coercion or the possibility thereof. But I think that balance has shifted and it would maybe limit the amount of self-defense force capability that could be redirected towards the East China Sea and obviously all the way down to the south western islands. Does that answer your question?

Jeffrey W. Hornung

Yeah, it does. And Sheila, you actually masterfully without even knowing it, you answered a question from the audience that was asking whether Russia is a secondary threat to China or whether these threats are now increasingly intertwined. And so I think your answer there has shown exactly that Japan cannot just ignore the North. It does have to look at both.

Matsuda Yasuhiro

May I interrupt?

Jeffrey W. Hornung

Yes, of course.

Matsuda Yasuhiro

I'm personally very worried about the Russia-North Korea connection because Russia needs more munitions and North Korea can gain something in exchange, and it may be some technology or some devices for missiles or even nuclear weapons and that's our great concern. It may accelerate the pace of nuclear and ballistic missile development in North Korea, and the same thing may happen in relations with China. So the Russia, China, North Korea connection will be a very important focal point in the future.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

There's a question here that I find interesting. We spent the last two hours talking about the need to strengthen deterrence, strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance, I think all speakers have touched on this in a in a number of ways. Let me ask a counterpoint question at one of the audience members has asked and whether a stronger U.S.-Japan commitment, whether this could accidentally escalate the situation over in the Taiwan Strait right now. And in this question, it is directed to Cortez. But I want to ask it to all of you in your thoughts. Do you think a stronger, Matt talked about the need to be clear and signal? Do you think a stronger U.S.-Japan alliance, stronger commitment to signaling, does this escalate the situation that China might take it the wrong way, or does this make China think more about the costs and therefore lead more towards a nonconflict? Let me, if I can, start with Cortez and get your thoughts and I'll just ask you, each of you, briefly to give your thoughts on this question.

Cortez Cooper

Okay, I think we have to in the particular environment we find ourselves in, we have to not worry as much about how China perceives a stronger U.S.-Japan alliance. I think that's essential. It's essential for sort of fundamental deterrence and introducing or maintaining and maybe increasing in China's mind, the idea of the cost of military operations against Taiwan. And to reinforce, I think, what has been a rather risk averse streak within the Chinese Communist Party, its leaders. And I don't want to overplay that, but I think that's important. What I think I do want to get in here, though, is that in a strengthened alliance, both the U.S. and Japan have other tools to use other than simply the threat of military capability between the two. And that's something where I'll go ahead and be a little bit controversial. I think that in our discussions right now, deterrence and integrated deterrence, we do dismiss the idea of assurance too quickly. Either say it's an entirely different category of thing, which we then never get to or we think about it, but basically say it's it's not a fundamental component of deterrence. And I think in the presentations you've heard thus far, you've heard various elements of how, particularly Japan, in terms of its pronouncements about what it supports and doesn't support diplomatically is an essential part of that equation and I think the U.S. has similar tools available to it. We understandably, I think, have not thought as much about what those tools might be. So I guess I'm saying I think it's a "yes and." We have to not be overly concerned and self deterring when it comes to what we do in the alliance because of our concern about how China will take it. China needs to know that the alliance is strengthening and that Japan will be involved, the entire world will be involved in the Taiwan conflict. That's what China needs to understand and I think they do. But we also have tools in the U.S. I think that probably maybe fall a little bit more in the assurance bin. And they have to do with some of the things that Dr. Smith talked about in terms of how we how we portray our policy and how we portray what is acceptable and not within that.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

Sheila, if I could ask you to give your brief thoughts.

Sheila Smith

Sure. My thinking is pretty much along the same line as Cortez's. I would simply say we should use every avenue we can and every tool that we can to try to correct for the kind of diplomatic crisis management silence that I was talking about in my remarks. I think that's dangerous for all of us. And right now, I think Japan is working hard to try to itself put back, at least on a regular communication track, its diplomacy with China as well. Everything on the table should be used. But I do think that diplomacy, what's been happening with the conversation at the Madrid Summit, for example, with NATO, I think is really valuable. Again, we're very focused on the military balance. I would like the alliance to continue to use the diplomatic language that it uses. Our investment in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is a perfectly fine framing for U.S.- Japan capabilities that Japan wants to introduce to improve sustainability of the self-defense forces and the defense of Japan missions will contribute if there is a major power crisis, obviously. Capabilities enhancement that we're about to see at the end of this year, I'm not quite sure in what form or fashion or platform yet, but that all is additive. And I think it says to people around Japan that Japan is worried, and so I think that's important. So capability enhancement in a rational program and doable platform program is really important. The last piece, Jeffrey, I think, is the economic security piece. I mean, what we're all trying to do, be it Japan, the United States or Europe, we are all trying to mitigate risk and that we perceive this risk today is very different than not that long ago in terms of how China has behaved and how China now is communicating the risks to us of economic cooperation or taking things lightly. So we got to get that message. I think that's a very strong message to Beijing. It's not always directly all about the U.S. and Japan, but I think it's a very important signal to Beijing that they have done something to provoke in some ways. And that conversation could easily be restarted if Beijing would like to help get us back on track. But I think it's an important signal as well.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

Understanding we're coming close to the end of the program, Yasuhiro, I'll give you the last word here. What are your thoughts on that?

Matsuda Yasuhiro

Well, I agree with Cortez and Sheila. We have to build up our capability firmly, we have to support Taiwan firmly, but we have to speak gently. And if we use very strong and determined words, we have to send messages secretly to Beijing, not in the public. I think that this is very good face-saving approach for Beijing. And that is relatively possible for the United States and Japan, because the Taiwan issue is not that intensively important in our domestic politics. But China is different, China has to do something. But in our case, we can make this kind of control. That's my impression. Thank you.

Jeffrey W. Hornung

I want to thank all of you. I want to thank our keynote speaker, Matt Pottinger, our three wonderful panelists, our partners to this Alliance series, as well as our audience members who tuned in and of course, our exceptional A/V team at the RAND Corporation that works behind the scenes and doesn't always get the credit they deserve. As I mentioned at the beginning of this program, we will be sending out a survey to gauge your interests in future topics. Again, it takes about two minutes. We would be most grateful if you could provide us with your feedback to help us think about topics for the future. But with that, I want to thank you for joining us on this federal holiday, taking time out of your schedules. Whether you are working today or not working today, we enjoyed having you to talk about this. Please stay well and I hope to see you at future events, either in Santa Monica or virtually again. Thank you very much.

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