For the first time, Japan has removed Taiwan from a map of China in its Defence of Japan white paper published this week. The 2021 white paper by Japan's Defence Ministry focuses considerably on the threats posed by China to the region due to the latter's increasing assertion in the waters around the South China Sea and the Pacific region.
The white paper in its earlier editions had always shown Taiwan and China together, alluding to Taiwan as a territory of China. Taiwan was also shown along with China in the same chapter and map, to the annoyance of the Taiwanese people living in Japan. However, this time, Taiwan News website points out that "there seems to be a distinction between the two countries, indicating a change in policy by Japan Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi".
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has welcomed the changes to the white paper. It also thanked Japan for highlighting the importance of "stabilizing the situation surrounding Taiwan" and paying "close attention to the situation with a sense of crisis more than ever before."
The newspaper says: "Instead, Taiwan has been included in Part I, Chapter 2, Section 3 of "Relations between the United States and China, etc." Another major change that Taiwan News has noticed is that the introduction to Taiwan's military situation has been incorporated in this section as opposed to "Deployment and Strength of People's Liberation Army" in Part 1, Chapter 2, Section 2.
The rising tensions in the region—due to China's belligerence over Taiwan, the control of resources in the South China Sea, asserting ownership rights over Japanese islands and sending its ships into the Exclusive Economic Zones of other countries–is weighing heavily over the Japanese leadership. In view of Chinese irritants in the form of frequent flypasts and maritime violations of countries in the region, Japan has been urging the US and other European nations to pay more heed to the Indo-Pacific region.
The Japanese Defence and Foreign Ministers have on separate occasions said that in China's tensions with Taiwan are a threat to regional peace and may force Japan, along with the US, to intervene militarily if China attacks Taiwan.
Responding to the white paper, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that Japan has "grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs, groundlessly blamed China’s normal defence construction and military activity, pointed fingers at China’s maritime activity, and hyped up the so-called China threat, which is wrong and irresponsible."
As recently as last week, a Beijing-based magazine had published in detail how China will launch an attack on Taiwan. This article came out around the same time as Chinese President for Life Xi Jinping's speech commemorating the Communist Party of China's centenary celebrations—raising suspicions about Chinese intentions in the region.