Game of Chicken
Beijing Challenges U.S. and Japan in the East China Sea

While Beijing goes toe-to-toe with the United States in the South China Sea, there is already plenty of geopolitical drama in Asia to make it a major source of anxiety. But now the East China Sea is heating up too, with the U.S. saying a Chinese fighter conducted an “unsafe” intercept of an American plane earlier this week. Reuters:

“One of the intercepting Chinese jets had an unsafe excessive rate of closure on the RC-135 aircraft. Initial assessment is that this seems to be a case of improper airmanship, as no other provocative or unsafe maneuvers occurred,” Pacific Command said. It did not say how close the Chinese fighter came to the U.S. plane.

“The Department of Defense is addressing the issue with China in appropriate diplomatic and military channels,” the statement said.

The close approach sounds a lot like a similar interaction over the Spratly islands last month. China accused the U.S. of “deliberately hyping” the East China Sea incident but it’s pretty clear these days which side is escalating tensions. On Wednesday, Beijing sailed a frigate through disputed territory, the Associated Press reported:

Japanese officials said a Chinese navy frigate was seen off the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, also claimed by China, which calls them the Diaoyu islands. The ship did not violate Japan’s territorial waters, and has since left the area.

While Chinese coast guard vessels routinely patrol the area, it was the first time a Chinese warship was spotted, officials said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki summoned Chinese Ambassador Cheng Yonghua to the ministry to deliver the protest.

Despite Japan and now the United States talking tough and acting tougher than ever, Beijing isn’t backing down at all. Abe isn’t going to blink. Will the United States?

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