Beijing shows no intention of softening its position on the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute. Foreign ministry officials told their Japanese counterparts that Tokyo must “face up to a major change in the Diaoyu Islands‘ situation”.
Chinese naval vessels continue to aggressively patrol waters around the Diaoyu Islands, expelling a number of Japanese ships from the area on Tuesday according to state media.
Kathrin Hille for the Financial Times:
“Such a statement is certainly unprecedented with respect to the Senkaku dispute,” said Taylor Fravel, an expert on Chinese security affairs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.
“In the past, China usually avoided entering the territorial waters around the islands, thus acknowledging Japan’s effective control of the Senkakus and surrounding waters,” he said. “Now, China has claimed its own territorial waters around the islands and is conducting patrols in these waters, which is a direct challenge to Japan’s control of the waters around the islands and to Japan’s position that there is not sovereignty dispute over the islands.”
Fravel highlights similar aggressive posturing by China before the 1974 invasion of the Paracel Islands, “the most recent case of Chinese expansionist behaviour in an island dispute”. Writing in the WSJ (paywall) he argues that the Diaoyu confrontation is “more dangerous than is commonly believed”:
China’s past behavior in other territorial disputes demonstrates why the Senkaku standoff is primed to explode.
Since 1949, China has been involved in 23 territorial disputes with its neighbors on land and at sea. Seventeen of them have been settled, usually through compromise agreements. Nevertheless, China has used force, often more than once, in six of these disputes. And it’s these cases that most closely parallel the Senkaku impasse.
Meanwhile, at an Australian-Chinese military conference, a high-level Chinese general warned against “interference” by outside powers (i.e. America) in the region. Lt General Ren Haiquan suggested the Diaoyu dispute could lead to open war with Japan. Ren pointed to Japan’s fascist past and the devastating 1942 bombing of Darwin by Imperial Japanese forces as reasons why Australia should support Chinese claims to the islands.
General Ren said China was firm in its determination to protect its core interests but it respected other countries’ legal rights to protect their national interests.
He said stability was threatened because “some people refuse to accept the result of World War II, intend to deny the victory of international anti-fascism and challenge post-war international order”.
“One should never forget history and should learn from history. Flames of the war ignited by fascist countries engulfed the whole region and many places including Darwin in Australia were bombed.”
Writing in Foreign Policy, Daniel Blumenthal argues that the US is neglecting its key ally in Asia:
Japan is different. It is arguably Washington’s most important ally. A successful Asia strategy is impossible without a strong alliance with Japan. Japan’s location makes it essential to any U.S. military operation in Asia. Its strength and resilience make it a reliable partner. Its shared sense of interests and values cement our bond. And, Japan is still a very strong and militarily capable country.
China’s incessant incursions into Japanese and disputed waters, and its bullying and badgering of Japan over the Senkakus, have prompted an unproductive nationalist response among some politicians in Japan. But it is Beijing that has created a vicious cycle. Its provocation leads to nationalism. Japanese nationalism in turn sparks strong emotions among the Chinese people. But the Chinese Communist Party also looked the other way as Japanese businesses in China were ransacked and boycotted.
Blumenthal sympathises with Japanese confusion over Washington’s neutrality on this issue:
This position was reasonable enough when China was weak and unable to press its claims, but those days are over. Is the United States really agnostic about the outcome of territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas? Of course not. It does not want conflict, but neither does it want China to control territories that sit along important sea lanes.
Blumenthal calls for the US, if it is serious about the ‘pivot’ to Asia, to “take the lead in defending” the established order “that has kept the peace in Asia for three decades”.
[Via: Bill Bishop]
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