China has started making concerted efforts to chase Japanese ships out of waters surrounding the disputed Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, ratcheting up tensions between Asia’s two largest economies.The Chinese State Oceanic Administration – which enforces the nation’s maritime interests – said four of its ships on Tuesday tried to expel Japanese vessels out of waters where they were operating “illegally”.
Both sides could stumble into a confrontation here that neither really wants.One lesson for Washington is that the “pivot to Asia” can’t be achieved with a smaller defense budget—or a smaller Navy.The United States needs to make clear to all concerned that we are serious about maintaining our position in the Pacific. That seriousness needs to be expressed in our defense planning and appropriations, as well as in the statements we make in Washington.There are plenty of people in China who are ready to believe that the United States doesn’t mean what it says about the future of Asia and our commitments there. What we don’t want is to set up a situation where they probe and push and test our resolve. It is much cheaper and safer to limit this behavior by communicating a strong — though not an aggressive — approach by ensuring that our military forces in the region remain unchallengeable.