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Beijing Rattles Tokyo’s Chain Near Contested Islands

The weekend saw a marked escalation in tensions between Japan and China. As many as 230 fishing vessels made their way into contested waters in the East China Sea, near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Among those were 14 Chinese government vessels, according to the Japanese. As of this morning, 12 of those vessels still remained.

Tensions have increased in the region since an international arbitration panel ruled against China in an unrelated maritime territorial dispute with the Philippines—a ruling that Japan called on China to respect. But a perhaps more proximate cause was last week’s appointment of a hardline nationalist to be Japan’s Defense Minister, and China’s subsequent resolve to test her.


China accused Japan’s new defense minister, Tomomi Inada, on Friday of recklessly misrepresenting history after she declined to say whether Japanese troops had massacred civilians in China during World War Two.

Inada echoed Suga’s comments and said on Monday Japan’s military would conduct air patrols to provide information to the coast guard.

While the U.S. media is obsessing over minute poll gyrations in the presidential elections, an unstable Asian Pacific Rim continues to shudder. The Obama Administration, for its part, seems to have decided to focus its waning months on making some kind of progress on the Syria portfolio, and has been relatively passive in public since the arbitration panel rulings. Whoever takes the reins as Commander in Chief come January will probably not have the luxury to continue Obama’s more laid-back approach to the region.

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  • Nevis07

    “The Obama Administration, for its part, seems to have decided to focus its waning months on making some kind of progress on the Syria portfolio…”

    I struggle to understand what strategic importance Syria could possibly represent to the US at this point. Maybe at one point, something could have been gained there on the ground, but once the US gave up the strategic initiative to Russia, the foreign policy gains in Syria became marginal at best. Obama is more concerned with his global warming pact with China, than he is about upholding territorial norms, I suppose?

    • f1b0nacc1

      Obama is desperate to have some sort of foreign policy victory that isn’t tainted by fraud and blatant incompetence. Iran was supposed to provide that, but the mullahs haven’t gone alone with the script, and so we are back to the drawing board. China isn’t going to play along no matter what, so the best move that Obama can make there is to ignore the whole thing and hope that the Japanese muddle through. As for Syria, he (Obama) clearly isn’t too bright to begin with, so he probably thinks that there is still some way to put lipstick on this pig….

  • Dhako

    Wrong, again folks. In other words, this is a relatively cheap version of China’s nominal Freedom-Of-Navigation (FON) movement in East China Sea (ECS). After all, the Japanese were the ones egging on the Philippines to mount a FON with them in the South China Sea (SCS), while knowing full well the East China Sea (ECS) is also something the Chinese is disputing the sovereignty of Japan over it. Hence that now China have shown that the arbitration and the ruling of the South China Sea (SCS) as essentially Dead-On-Arrival (DOA) in so far as they are concern, then it’s time to show the Japs that two can play this alleged FON – both in SCS as well as ECS.

    Furthermore, now that the TPP is effectively dead (at least in so far as Obama is concern, since both Democrats and Republicans will not touch any Free Trade Deal in this Trumpian’s world of US politics) then the Chinese knows the US’s pivot is dead as well, at least in it’s economical side of it.

    Therefore, since most states in the region know that the “Zero-Sum-Game” that is the Geo-Strategical competition between the US and China in the region, China is essentially on a odds-on-favor at the moment, then the Chinese will take a few pointing lesson of “schadenfreude” to the Japanese, who bet the farm – wrongly – on the US not being a naked emperor when it comes to given a few meaty economical substance to it’s pivot to Asia.

    And now that the TPP, which was essentially the economical compliment of that US’s pivot in the region is dead, then it’s appropriate to parade before the Japanese’s sight in-order to educate them as to how wrong they were when they have bet wrongly on US’s ability to be anything other than politically dysfunctional state, in so far as Washington is concern.

    Hence, the reason the Chinese are determine to show the Japanese how wrong they were when they thought (under Abe Shinzo) that the US’s Pax-Americana could be an economical bounty in which it’s free trade aspect of it can take the place for Japan where China’s voluminous trade with Japan, used to be, since, that trade between China and Japan has been effected directly by Japan’s doomed dalliance with the TPP.

    Consequently, this is in one piece of firstly showing that the FON can be a game both parties can play. And this means that China can play that “game” in East China Sea (ECS) as much as US’s Pacific fleet can play the same game in the South China Sea (SCS). And, secondly, its a way of showing that Japan had made a strategical mistake when they forsake what economical benefit China could have been to them (if they had played their cards carefully) for a mirage that was the US’s economical pivot to Asia, which is otherwise known as the TPP.

    This is what this little “fishermen’s flotilla” are doing. And anyone who is familiar with the reality of the region knows this to be the case. Hence the pity of it is that the folks in TAI, are still as blind as ever where the affairs of this region is concern.

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