Tuesday, September 13, 2005

China's Navy Flexes Muscle at Japan

The International Herald Tribune reports on China's Navy carrying out sea control missions in disputed waters, in a strong article co-authored by longtime China watcher Howard French:

In a muscular display of its rising military and economic might, China deployed a fleet of five warships last week near a gas field in the East China Sea, a potentially resource-rich area that is disputed by China and Japan.
The ships, including a guided-missile destroyer, were spotted by a Japanese military patrol plane near the Chunxiao gas field, according to Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Forces. It is believed to be the first time that Chinese warships have been seen in that area.

This was done at the time of a Japanese election, echoing the missile firings at Taiwan in 1996. Aggressive moves like this can only influence hawks in Japan, and push the Japanese closer to the US and Taiwan. Further, China's naval expansion enhances Taiwan's strategic value, since Taiwan is an important link in the chain of barriers that keeps the tiger of China's navy pacing within the bars of its coastal waters.

As Japanese policy toward China hardens, it moves closer to Taiwan, the IHT notes:

Japan has joined the United States in lobbying the European Union not to lift its arms embargo on China. But the strongest signal yet was Japan's tougher public stance on defending Taiwan against China.

As the Japanese themselves say:

The United States may see its future rivalry with China as on a global stage. But for Japan, the stage is Asia and the epicenter is around Taiwan.

Most of Japan's oil is shipped through two sea lanes: one directly south of Taiwan and another farther south, which increases shipping time by two days.

"If you assume conditions are balanced now," said Admiral Koichi Furusho, the former chief of staff of Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Forces, "they would collapse as soon as Taiwan unifies with China. The sea lanes would turn all red."

Longtime Taiwan watchers will recognize this shoot-themselves-in-the-foot China, the one that attempts to "persuade" through intimidation, instead of woo through suasion. It looks like, with the increasingly open anti-Japanese trends in Chinese society (Asia Times reports on online anti-Japan game developed by a Communist Party organ debuting soon in China), we are looking at a period of crypto-Cold War politics that will bring the US, Taiwan and Japan closer together, one that will increase the influence of hawks and hardliners in Japan, and one that will result in greater expressions of public support for Taiwan in Japan. Japan may become more aggressive in its diplomacy, ranging farther afield, as China's demand for oil pits it against Japanese need for the same, and the need to secure its oil routes. It will also put further strains on the Japan-US-EU relationship as Europe tilts toward China.

Several other developments also show reflect on anti-Chinese containment trends. A joint US-India naval exercise begins today. Asia Times reports on the way China affects the India Lobby in the US:

The sale is particularly puzzling to New Delhi because the arming of India is very much a Pentagon project in making it a "natural ally" in maintaining peace and security in the area. Building up India as a potential rival to China is very much on the Pentagon's agenda, and yet the White House pushed through a bill to sell arms to Pakistan, endangering India's western frontiers and raising a fresh dilemma for the pro-US lobby in India.

Future historians will only shake their heads in wonder at the suicidal stupidity of US foreign policy under the Bush Administration.

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