Against the rising tension in the Asia-Pacific region, a Japanese daily newspaper recently released a poll to gauge public sentiment regarding the island nation’s potential involvement in an armed conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan.

An Obvious Concern

According to an Asahi Shimbun survey, about eighty percent of the 3,000 randomly selected Japanese voters expressed great concern about their government helping Taiwan and how it could get caught up in the middle. Most of these responders said Japan’s Self-Defense Forces “should limit its role to rearguard support,” nothing more than offering such as fuel, food, and medical supplies.

The survey has given the voters four degrees of concern, from “greatly” to “not concerned at all” on the potential US-China military confrontation over Taiwan. Of this, 28 percent responded “greatly,” while 52 percent said “to some degree.” Meanwhile, about 16 percent said they are “not concerned much,” and only two percent of these randomly selected voters answered that they were “not concerned at all.”

Asahi Shimbun also asked pollers how its Self-Defense Forces should respond, and a whopping 56 percent said that Japan’s role “should be limited to rearguard support” to the US military. Moreover, around 27 percent answered that they should not participate, while the remaining 11 percent said its forces should fight alongside its Western ally to counter China.

The release of the poll results did not come as a surprise to many analysts, especially within Japan. However, given Japan’s tumultuous conflict history during the Second World War and its longstanding commitment to a pacifist policy of avoiding involvement in armed confrontations, it is unlikely that Japan would actively participate in the United States’ efforts to uphold Taiwan’s sovereignty.

F-15J Eagle
A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15J Eagle (Image source: DVIDS)

Okinawa activist Shinako Oyakawa told DW News that the people generally have a strong aversion to war, particularly a significant portion of Japan’s southernmost prefecture population. Given Okinawa’s proximity to Taiwan, its role as the site of the majority of US military installations in Japan, and the prefecture’s firsthand experience of the consequences of war, particularly during World War II and the Battle of Okinawa, these factors significantly contribute to the strong sentiments against engaging in conflicts.

“No one wants to see that happen again. But if Japan became involved, that is exactly what would happen,” Oyakawa said.

Nevertheless, while there is uneasiness regarding the situation, many people still sympathize with Taiwan and the growing pressure the neighboring island country is experiencing from China. She further pointed out, regardless, that she has received the sentiments of the people in Taiwan, who themselves hold the view that the situation is not as critical as others are portraying it. “If that is the case, then governments should not exaggerate a situation to promote their own military plans,” Oyakawa added.