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Japan, China Edge Closer To The Brink

War in Asia may be unthinkable, but it is getting easier to imagine scenarios that could see China, Japan and conceivably the United States in a shooting match. China’s announced expansion of its restricted air zone over waters adjoining the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands drew strong reactions from Japan — which rejected China’s claim — and from the United States.

China says that planes wishing to fly into the zone (which include a significant area of international territory) must identify themselves or face unspecified “defensive emergency measures.” The United States immediately announced that it will ignore the zone and that US military flights off the Chinese coast will continue as before.

Was China just blowing smoke or does it really mean what it says? We are likely to find out before long. Both Japan and the United States will be testing this zone in the days and weeks to come.

Many Americans like to think that the peaceful and, from a US standpoint, basically benign world order we inhabit is a fact of nature, something that can be indefinitely sustained with no heavy lifting on our part. Nothing, unfortunately, could be farther from the truth, and at a time when the United States is sending confusing signals to the world about our will to do what it takes to uphold that world system, we must expect that various countries are going to test us from time to time to see whether we are still committed.

China is one of the countries most interested in testing American commitments, but countries like Japan are equally concerned. American strength and American commitment are indispensable to stability in Asia; American politicians need to weigh their words and their actions carefully. Asia is watching.


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  • Andrew Allison

    “The United States immediately announced that it will ignore the zone and that US military flights off the Chinese coast will continue as before.” The US had better be prepared to show a lot more spine than it did when Assad engaged in chemical warfare against his own people, namely, be prepared to engage the Chinese or be perceived as toothless. We live in increasingly interesting times

  • Anthony

    “In a move that U.S. ally Japan branded as very dangerous, China said it was setting up air defense identification zone over islands administered by Tokyo to guard against air threats.” Aren’t Islands covered by U.S.-Japan security treaty?

    An inning ends but the game of power goes on as the confrontation being seeded overlaps the negotiation being matured as power is neither created nor destroyed. Power is transferred or transformed.

    • Andrew Allison

      The current Administration appears to think otherwise!

  • lukelea

    Remind me again why we do business on such a lavish scale with China? It’s not private enterprise or free trade when the other side is under the thumb of the Org (aka The Chinese Communist Party).

    Aren’t we just aiding and abetting a totalitarian criminal organization that denies every human value and right we believe in? Are we too chicken to back out? Too bound at the hip? Too greedy? Too naive? Too foolish? Too beholden to Mammon?

    Or am I just being needlessly cynical?

    • Andrew Allison

      Too naive [grin]. We do business with China because American consumers demand (or, thanks to the gross mismanagement of the US economy, can afford) prices which can only be met by manufacturing offshore. We can put a stop to this by refusing to buy things “Made in China” and paying the price. Good luck with that!

      • rheddles2

        I imagine history will show that we do business with China because they bought WTO membershjp from the Clinton administration. Bernie Schwartz.

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