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China Ups Ante in the Pacific

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China is flexing its muscles in the Pacific, setting off new alarm bells in Tokyo. Following a week-long series of exercises with the Russian navy in the Sea of Japan, several Chinese warships took the provocative step of sailing through the La Pérouse Strait, the narrow body of water that separates Japan from Russia’s Sakhalin Island. The ships chose to do a dog-leg around Japan’s Pacific coast rather than taking the more direct route south through the Sea of Japan and into the East China Sea. The FT leaves little doubt that this was a move meant to provoke:

Ahead of the exercises, Chinese media quoted Yin Zhuo, a retired admiral who advises Chinese politicians, as saying that such manoeuvres in the Sea of Japan would “have a certain level of threat to Japan, which has a dispute with China over the Diaoyu Islands and one with Russia over the Northern Territories”.

The article goes on to point out that rhetoric is running hot on both sides, with Shinzo Abe’s government accusing China of using force to change the status quo and a Chinese nationalist paper saying that the standoff with Japan was moving toward “strategic hostility.” Of all the contests in the Pacific, the China-Japan rivalry continues to be the one to watch.

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