Lessons Learned from the Taiwan Crisis Simulation


Special Advisor/Ex-director, the Office of japan Affairs, the US Department of State Kevin K. Maher

First let me thank JFSS for organizing and hosting the Taiwan Crisis simulation exercise that was held July 15-16, 2023. I considered it an honor to participate in the role of the U.S. President, with CSIS Japan Chair Christopher Johnstone as the U.S. National Security Advisor, and together with currently active Japan Diet members led by former Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera in the role of the Prime Minister, many retired senior Japan Self Defense Forces personnel, and many former senior career officials of the Japanese government, who came not only from the Ministry of Defense but also from many other ministries and agencies. Those other ministries and agencies will have important roles to play in a real-world response to a crisis in the Taiwan Strait or in Japanʼs Southwest Islands, so I was happy to see their active participation. I also was very happy to see participation by a contingent from Taiwan.

The simulation exercise did an outstanding job of highlighting difficult issues of decision making which both the Japanese and U.S. governments will face in a real-world crisis. In this article I will discuss my view of lessons learned from the simulation. While drawn from the simulation itself, admittedly my views are influenced by my personal experience in dealing with the Japan-U.S. security alliance over the course of four decades.

My hope is that both the Government of Japan and the U.S. Government will draw upon the lessons emerging from the Taiwan Simulation, including those discussed elsewhere by many other participants and observers, to increase rapidly the deterrence capabilities of both countries and the effectiveness of the alliance.

These are not abstract issues for academic debate. Instead, they are real time and urgent issues which must be resolved promptly to maximize Japan-U.S. alliance defense capabilities. We must be resolute in this endeavor if we are to deter, and if necessary, defeat potential aggression in the region and Chinaʼs attempts to change the status quo in the region by intimidation and force. We also must not overlook the threats from North Korea and Russia.

The Scenario

The Taiwan crisis simulation scenario was set in 2027 and was premised on the assumption that Japan would by that time have successfully implemented its JFY 2023-2027 Defense Buildup Program. The simulation demonstrated a realistic outline of how a Taiwan Strait crisis could evolve, although any number of scenarios are plausible.