Everyone Please Chill, Okinawa Governor Says Amid Pacific Tensions
Denny Tamaki says “peaceful diplomacy” will help maintain “balance.”
As tensions rise again between China and the U.S. and its allies, the governor of Okinawa brought a message to Washington, D.C.: the delicate situation calls for diplomacy, not more “enhanced deterrence.”
“If we focus too much on the deterrence by military, this balance may be lost,” Denny Tamaki said Wednesday through a translator.
The governor of the Japanese prefecture spoke to reporters after meeting with officials from the Departments of Defense and State during his visit, and with experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which recently held a wargame on Taiwan.
Tamaki discussed U.S. forces in Okinawa, and China’s military presence in the region, pointing to the increasing incursions by its aircraft into Japanese air-defense airspace.
“I believe that coming into that territorial area should not happen, and we should not allow aircraft from other countries to do that,” he said. “However, we should avoid the situation escalating. So, we need to maintain calm and collected response and also, we need to keep the communication lines.”
Tamaki said he believes a Chinese invasion of Taiwan—the subject of recent warnings by four-star U.S. admirals and generals—is possible but unlikely.
“By looking at the increase of the military power by China, if we think that China is going toward invading other countries, I don't think that idea is not really well balanced,” he said.
One reason, Tamaki said, is that China is too economically entwined with the United States. Last year, trade between the countries hit a record $690 billion.
“Tension between China and the U.S. over Taiwan, if anything happens, that is going to give negative impact to all the players,” he said. “So I believe it is very important to give any reason to those countries to do that. And engaging in the peaceful diplomacy is the way to maintain this status quo or this balance.”
Tamaki also expressed reservations about “enhanced deterrence.” In December, Japan updated its defense strategy that called for a renewed look at its defense capabilities, especially in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and growing security concerns in the Pacific.
“There is a concern that heightening the deterrence may cause the loss of the balance [of the] economy,” he said. “In order to maintain this economic balance, peacebuilding is the priority. So if we focus too much on the deterrence by military, that this balance may be lost. So that is why as the governor of Okinawa, I have decided to come to have this opportunity to ask the citizens of the U.S. what is important and what should be sought after,” he said.