THE NEWEST CHINESE MOVES IN THE EAST CHINA SEA: A COMMENT
"Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday issued a fresh warning to China about its growing maritime activities near Japanese-controlled islets, pledging to engage in surveillance and intelligence activities to protect remote islands. “We will demonstrate our intention not to allow a change in the status quo. We must conduct surveillance and intelligence activities for that purpose,” Abe said in his address to the Ground Self-Defense Force troops during an inspection ceremony at Camp Asaka, which straddles the border of Tokyo’s Nerima Ward and Saitama Prefecture. China has stepped up maritime activities around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, a group of uninhabited islets claimed by China as the Diaoyu and by Taiwan as Tiaoyutai, after Tokyo bought three of them in September 2012 from their private owner. Abe also repeated his policy goal of enabling Japan to take on a greater security role, saying he will “proceed with studying” whether to change the interpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution so it can engage in collective self-defense. “I would like you all to discard the notion that the existence of defense forces itself can act as a deterrent,” Abe said. At the ceremony attended by some 4,000 GSDF personnel, a U.S. amphibious assault vehicle was displayed for the first time. In addition to four amphibious vehicles covered by the budget for fiscal 2013, the Defense Ministry is considering buying two more with command functions in fiscal 2014 and more in fiscal 2015 and beyond, mainly for remote island defense. Verbal skirmishing between Asia’s two biggest economies escalated after Beijing warned Tokyo that any hostile action in the skies against Chinese aircraft will be construed as an “act of war.” “There are concerns that China is attempting to change the status quo by force, rather than by rule of law,” Abe said in an interview after a series of summits this month with regional leaders. “But if China opts to take that path, then it won’t be able to emerge peacefully,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “So it shouldn’t take that path, and many nations expect Japan to strongly express that view. And they hope that as a result, China will take responsible action in the international community,” Abe added in the interview published Saturday."The Japan Times. "Abe issues fresh warning to China on isle row." 27 October 2013, in http://www.japantimes.co.jp
"The diplomatic aspect of our strategy for maintaining a balance with China should consist of three elements: First, we need to continue working to bolster our relationships with traditional treaty allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia. These efforts should have an economic as well as a military component. The recent U.S.-Korea free-trade agreement is an example of a measure that can further strengthen existing ties. Second, we need to attend to our “quasi-alliance” relationships with countries like India, Singapore, Indonesia and perhaps Vietnam that share our concerns about China’s rising power and increasing assertiveness. Finally, we should be quietly working to encourage strategic dialogue and defense cooperation among all of these countries. China’s leaders should know that if they behave aggressively they will face resistance from a coalition of Asian nations."Jennifer Rubin, "Interview with Aaron Friedberg: Is China going to displace the U.S.?" The Washington Post. 16 October 2013 in www.washingtonpost.com. The latest statement by the Japanese premier highlights the dangers of not making it absolutely clear to Peking that any, I repeat any endeavor to change the status quo ante bellum by force, will in turn be resisted by force. Unless and until the Western Powers make absolutely clear that Peking's attempts to intimidate its neighbors by brandishing its newly acquired weapon systems will meet with absolute resistance, the PRC regime will continue to engage in the same policies 1. Make no mistake: Peking is still militarily speaking a mere regional power, unable to compete with the Americans either on the ground, in the air or on the seas. However, this fact does not obviate the fact that if the West allows the impression to gain hold that it is willing to stand aside in any conflict between Red China and one of its neighbors, then the likelihood of such a conflict will increase greatly. The irony is that in many respects the regime in Peking is indeed a mere paper tiger. It does not have either social cohesion or the military power to engage in any type of prolonged military conflicts abroad. And does one need to remind people that the last two times that Peking engaged in military conflicts with its neighbors (Russia in 1969 and Vietnam in 1979), it came out the loser in both. The upshot is that a strong and determined Western policy of deterrence and containment of Peking will keep the peace in the Far East as Aaron Friedberg, probably the best American analyst of Sino-American relations strongly urges 2. A policy of not engaging will have the very opposite effect. 1. On this tendency by Peking's see: Demetri Sevastopulo & Jonathan Soble in "China-Japan relations take turn for worse." The Financial Times. 28 October 2013, in www.ft.com. 2. See in particular Friedberg's brilliant book: A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia (2011), where these issues are discussed in depth and to great purpose. It is a tragedy that someone of Friedberg's vast knowledge and insight into the Chinese threat to peace in the Far East is not represented at the summit of American power. Instead policy is being decided by Henry Kissinger-like epigoni.