On December 4, the third page of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun Evening Edition included an article entitled, “More than 1.5 Million COVID-19 Deaths Worldwide: Daily Deaths in the United States Exceed April at 2,800, Healthcare Worker Shortage Causes Problems.” It read:
“California Residents Again Ordered to Stay at Home Due to ICU Bed Shortage” was also printed on the third page.
California has more than 18,000 daily cases, the highest level so far, and rapidly increasing numbers of hospitalized patients. There is already a growing possibility that ICU beds will be insufficient in the County of Los Angeles and other areas with large populations.
The COVID-19 pandemic’s increasing intensity around the world is mainly attributed to the virus being able to survive longer in cold winter weather.
As this crisis goes on, more people around the globe are criticizing China as the source of the virus. SankeiBiz posted an article on November 18 entitled, “Joe Biden Strengthens Collaboration With Allies to Build Encirclement Around China.” It read:
Biden stated that the U.S. must collaborate with other democratic nations to handle China. He intends to make multilateral efforts to suppress China’s habitual actions, such as its violations of intellectual property rights and industrial subsidiary aid. Biden said he is not looking to take punitive measures like the Trump administration’s tariffs.
Biden is emphasizing that his Democratic government will maintain a hard-line stance against China. However, the Democratic Party is traditionally friendly to China, and until Biden is inaugurated there are many things we will not know about his administration’s actual China policy.
Meanwhile, Trump continues displaying an unyielding attitude against China while making decisions in the final days of his presidency. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Evening Edition ran an article entitled “American Visas for Communist Party of China (CPC) Members Cut From 10 Years to One Month” on its front page on December 4.
The shortened term applies to business and tourist visas. CPC members are also limited to one entry into the U.S. However, some believe it will be difficult to fully grasp just who is a party leader or member of the CPC, which is said to have 92 million members.
The Department of State said this measure is an attempt to protect the U.S. from the harmful influence of the CPC. The Trump administration has long voiced concern about the CPC’s active propaganda efforts in the U.S. with the aim of influencing Americans. The Department of State emphasized that it has the authority to restrict visas for individuals who are hostile to American values.
Also on December 4, The Yomiuri Shimbun ran on article on the second page of its Morning Edition, “Navy Secretary Says U.S. Will Form 1st Fleet in Indo-Pacific to Oppose Chinese Armed Forces.”
Under the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet headquartered in Hawaii, the 3rd Fleet’s area of responsibility is in the Pacific Ocean east of the International Date Line, and the 7th Fleet’s is west of the International Date Line from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean.
According to Braithwaite, the 1st Fleet will be in charge mainly of the Indo and South Asian region. It will have an “agile, mobile, at sea command” rather than being headquartered on land. Vessels, including those deployed in the 7th Fleet, will be shared and dispatched to the 1st Fleet as necessary. He did not mention when the fleet will be formed or where it will be based.
Braithwaite emphasized the significance of this fleet, saying, “This will reassure our allies and partners of our presence and commitment to this region, while ensuring any potential adversary knows we are committed to global presence to ensure rule of law and freedom of the seas.” He said the 7th Fleet “has formidable challenges to move all the way through the Western Pacific, down through the approaches of the Indian Ocean, all the way over to the Northern Arabian Gulf.”
The 1st Fleet was formed directly after World War II to handle the Western Pacific, but it has been inactive since being dismantled in 1973.
Journalist Masahiro Miyazaki’s “American Upheaval” column was published in the December 1 issue of Yukan Fuji. It was titled, “Trump’s Final Scenario: A Sudden Visit to Taiwan With no Warning.”
Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Paris Agreement on climate change, and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty). He is executing forceful measures to prevent Biden, who has been announced as the next president, from overturning these fundamental policies.
In the last days of his presidency, Trump is preoccupied with making good on all the promises he has left undone so far.
What will he do in the eleventh hour?
In an American conservative magazine, a former high government official stated that Trump will finish out his term by visiting Taiwan.
If so, his visit would be a major incident that rewrites contemporary history. It is possible that Trump might do such a thing. Consider his track record from the past four years, in which he made a full about-face in the American strategy for handling China, and switched to policy that treats China as a hostile party.
Trump drastically changed the U.S.-Taiwan relationship. It was announced that the U.S. would provide the latest F-16 fighter aircraft, M1A2 Abrams battle tanks, Patriot and Stinger surface-to-air missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, high-performance torpedoes, and other weapons according to the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. He was totally unconcerned about Chinese criticisms of this.
The Taiwan Travel Act enacted in 2018 made it possible for top-level American officials and even the president to visit Taiwan. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Under Secretary of State Keith Krach were sent to Taipei, and it was predicted that an even higher official would travel there in the future.
The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act, effective March 2020, further enhanced American support for Taiwan through means such as putting sanctions on countries that break off relations with Taiwan.
When then-President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin in 1963 and gave a speech to a huge crowd, he provided courage to the dispirited people of Berlin who were suffering under totalitarian rule. This dealt a hard blow to the former Soviet Union.
Accordingly, a visit by Trump during his remaining term would likely lend great courage to the people of free Asia (although these effects would be halved if he were no longer the sitting president).
In particular, the people of Hong Kong, who have lost their freedom and are living in a totalitarian control and surveillance system, and the people of Tibet and Uygur, who are suffering under oppressive rule, are waiting with bated breath.
The previously mentioned high official proposed, “The ideal outcome is a visit by Trump, but Vice President Mike Pence or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would be the second-best option.”
What will happen before the upcoming inauguration on January 20, 2021?
When Biden beat Trump by a narrow margin in November, Trump at first attempted to overturn the results by filing lawsuits. Although he has not conceded, he seems to have accepted the transition of government and is changing course to a gracious withdrawal. I think this is part of his plan to run again four years from now. Trump is a man who achieved good results through his uncompromising policies against China, and visiting Taiwan before stepping down quietly would open up a path to victory in the next election.
Although Trump failed to win as a Republican candidate, he received 70 million votes and it seems unlikely that the party can find anyone to replace him in the next four years. People also say the 78-year-old Biden will not run again. If the U.S.-China relations remain difficult for some time, the experienced Trump would clearly be more advantageous to the Republican Party than a new candidate. Keeping the future election in mind, Trump is paying particular attention to COVID-19 in addition to the possibility of visiting Taiwan. American pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna applied for use authorization their vaccines, and the United Kingdom and Canada have already approved and started administering Pfizer’s vaccine. I think Trump will step up the pace to approving one of these vaccines so his name goes down in history as the president who vanquished this coronavirus. From 40 to 100 million people around the world died in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 to 1919, when there were no antibiotics or technologies to develop vaccines. Without a vaccine or drugs to treat COVID-19, nothing has changed compared to that time. But if a vaccine can be developed and used to resolve these circumstances, Trump’s re-election four years from now grows every more likely.
Biden did win the election, but this is due to the people who wanted to vote against Trump, not because his policies are superior. This means he did not achieve an ideal victory. Although the ruling Democratic Party is predominant in Congress, it is highly likely that the Republican Party will gain the House, resulting in a divided Congress. This will make it even more difficult for Biden to effectively carry out his policies. Historically, the Democratic Party has been conciliatory to China. Chinese President Xi Jinping promptly sent Biden a congratulatory message, indicating his hope that the Sino-American relationship will be improved. However, it would be better for Japan if the U.S. displayed an attitude of confrontation against China – like setting these new visa rules and forming the 1st Fleet to deal with China’s economic and military expansion – rather than working to correct this relationship. Biden is yet an unknown quantity, but I wonder if we can expect this of him. I will keep an eye on what happens during the next few years and hope that Trump will run again.
While America’s China policy is important, for Japan it is even more essential that we are prepared to defend ourselves. The international community is a place where nations struggle for power, and peace is maintained through a balance of power. We must quickly amend the constitution and make the Japan Self-Defense Forces into an army so we can protect Japan according to a balance of power. We should also amend the current Japan-U.S. Security Treaty that is like an agreement for protecting a semi-independent nation. Even if the U.S. sent reinforcements to Japan in the event of an emergency, under this treaty the U.S. Armed Forces would certainly not fight on Japan’s behalf. I do not believe the American people would allow this, either. The security treaty is this way because the Japanese constitution is interpreted as not allowing us to have an army. We should work to revise the constitution and Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. At the same time, we must make efforts to build an encirclement around China – incorporating countries like Vietnam and the Philippines – centered on the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with the U.S., Australia, and India.
Japan should also assert itself as a country. Many nations are suing China for reparations for COVID-19, but Japan has not even spoken out to censure China. Considering that the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was studying viruses, it is highly likely that the virus research institute in Wuhan is the source. China has not admitted this and has no intention of fulfilling its international responsibility. Negotiations between countries must be founded on strength. We need military power to be able to stand against China if our intent is to co-exist on an equal footing. Japan should increase its momentum toward constitutional revision to become a nation capable of independent self-defense.
December 18 (Friday), 6:00 p.m.