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Dispute Over Senkakus Heats Up

Japan’s assertion of its claims to disputed islands in the East China Sea has earned it stern rebukes from both China and South Korea. Tokyo released its annual defense white paper on Tuesday, and for the eighth year in a row it avowed ownership of the disputed Senkaku Islands. China also claims the uninhabited islets.

Bloomberg News notes that the tension between China and Japan over these islands could be a game changer:

“The Senkaku dispute matters for its capacity to transform Japanese thinking about Chinese intentions,” Brad Glosserman, executive director of Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu-based research institute, wrote in an e-mail. “Japan remains the third-largest economy in the world, and while it is deeply pacifist—or defensive—in security orientation, a change in its thinking would ripple throughout the region and could truly transform the region.”

Nor was China alone in its condemnation of Japanese territorial claims. South Korea also issued a terse diplomatic statement regarding a separate dispute and demanded a correction from Tokyo.

As every country in Asia pursues its national interests, the region will witness a shifting mixture of cooperation and competition. Asia has a lot of moving parts; as US foreign policy centers more on Asia, we are going to have to deal with them. Don’t expect an easy ride; Asia policy is likely to be much more complicated and difficult than, say, our Europe policy during most of the Cold War.

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  • Kris

    “a change in [Japan’s] thinking would ripple throughout the region and could truly transform the region”

    Indeed. In short, as we’ve discussed, Chinese aggressiveness is resulting in its neighbors mostly uniting against it in response. But given history, could a too strong response by one of those countries, Japan, give the others pause and complicate the picture?

    And now for my deeply serious proposal: The UN should grant sovereignty over all those uninhabited disputed islands to Syria. The surrounding nations can then unite in the important humanitarian mission of bombing these islands to smithereens.

    I await my Nobel Peace Prize.

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