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Asian Powder Keg
China Rattles Its Sabers

Japanese warplanes nearly got into an ugly altercation with Chinese fighters, Beijing said yesterday. More from the FT:

[T]he latest clash on June 17 threatened to turn dangerous, according to a statement by China’s ministry of defence on Monday, when Japanese warplanes used fire-control radar to “light up” Chinese counterparts and released infrared flares during evasive manoeuvres. Japan’s deputy chief of cabinet on Tuesday denied China’s claims.

Both sides agree a pair of Chinese SU-30 fighter-bombers encountered two Japanese F-15 fighters somewhere over the East China Sea, where China and Japan dispute ownership of a group of islands known in Japan as the Senkaku and China as the Diaoyu. The nations also claim overlapping Air Defence Identification Zones, which require foreign aircraft to identify themselves.

Japanese officials say China has increased its military activity in the sea and air, obliging Japan to almost double its scrambling of aircraft to engage Chinese jets over the past three months.

Things have been getting tenser in the South China Sea too ahead of next week’s tribunal ruling. Beijing has reportedly offered to meet directly with the Philippines if Manila agrees to ignore the court’s decision. The unpredictable new Philippines president has suggested in the past that he might be open to such overtures. Meanwhile, the influential state-run Global Times is raising the possibility of war with the U.S. Deutsche Welle:

The paper said while “China hopes disputes can be resolved by talks, it must be prepared for any military confrontation,” and called for Beijing to speed up developing its military deterrence abilities.

“Even though China cannot keep up with the US militarily in the short-term, it should be able to let the US pay a cost it cannot stand if it intervenes in the South China Sea dispute by force,” it said.

The U.S. has said it will draw a line in the Scarborough Shoal—long expected to be Beijing’s next target for significant infrastructural build-up. But if China doesn’t back down, what is the American strategy? Will Washington blink?

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