A former Japanese military officer recently made waves after saying he believes China plans to invade and annex Taiwan by 2025 and Okinawa by 2045.
The comments by retired Lt. Gen. Kunio Orita, a 35-year veteran of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and a former commander of the 301st Tactical Fighter Squadron and 6th Air Wing, appeared last month in the English-language Taiwan News.
Orita, who retired in 2009 and is now a guest professor at Toyo Gakuen University in Tokyo, recently told Stars and Stripes he expects Beijing will attempt to expand its sphere of influence by first taking control of Taiwan and then militarizing a key disputed islet in the South China Sea.
Once that’s accomplished, he said, China will set its sights on Japan’s southern island prefecture, which hosts about half of the approximately 54,000 U.S. troops serving in Japan.
Beijing plans to force the United States out of Okinawa by fostering negative media coverage and supporting the anti-U.S. military protest movement on the island, the former general said.
“If China can push out the U.S. military from the region, it is possible that they can conquer the South China Sea and they will gain the power to stop any trade between Japan and other countries,” he told the Stars and Stripes, in late January.
The key to making this happen is building a naval port at Scarborough Shoal, an islet about 200 miles west of Manila in the South China Sea, Orita said. Beijing took control of Scarborough’s resource-rich lagoon from the Philippines in 2012.
“By building up their forces there, it will add tremendous pressure on surrounding countries,” he said, adding that China backed off plans to militarize Scarborough as it’s done on other South China Sea islets after U.S overflights of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs in April 2016.
However, Orita thinks Taiwan will be annexed first.
This will begin with China declaring a no-fly zone around the island nation, he said, adding that any aircraft that tries to come to Taiwan’s aid will be shot down.
Orita then expects Beijing to provoke and attack Taiwanese navy and air force assets, both on land and in the Taiwan Strait, which separates it from China. Next, he expects them to blockade the island until Taiwan’s government agrees to come to the negotiating table, where a pro-Beijing regime will be installed.
“After taking over Taiwan, China will gain more influence over Indo-Pacific shipping lanes, then China can start to add nuclear pressure on the countries in the Pacific,” he said.
Orita said China will then take the nearby Senkaku Islands, a disputed chain northeast of Taiwan and northwest of Japan’s Miyako island in the East China Sea also claimed by Japan and Taiwan, and encourage Okinawans to declare their independence from Japan.
The Chinese have long been antagonistic regarding the Senkakus.
In 2016, China sailed an aircraft carrier between Miyako and Okinawa’s main island. There have been frequent overflights of Chinese military aircraft in the same space since then, Japanese defense ministry officials told Stars and Stripes last year.
“China keeps pushing up the territorial line every year by breaking into Miyako-Okinawa,” Orita said.
China has also been “dumping money to influence Okinawa to turn its back on its country,” he said, in a reference to the island’s fervent anti-U.S. military movement.
Orita said he’s learned through intelligence sources that this includes funneling money to Okinawan media outlets for anti-U.S. military coverage. However, he could not provide proof of the assertion.
“China wants Okinawa to be an independent country,” he said. “An independent country does not need U.S. forces on the island.”