Saturday, January 26, 2013

Washington Post Editorial over Senkaku Islands Row: "Cooler Heads Should Prevail"

Washington Post has a short editorial on the Japan-Sino row over the Senkaku Islands, gently suggesting both sides to cool it so that the Obama administration doesn't need to choose between the two alternatives - defending Japan as per the security treaty between the US and Japan, or a "climb-down".

Well I don't think Prime Minister Abe is counting on the latter...

From Washington Post (1/25/2013; links are original, emphasis is mine):

GIVEN PRESIDENT Obama’s preoccupation with ending what he calls “a decade of war,” it’s hard to believe that the United States could be dragged into a military conflict in the western Pacific over a group of tiny, uninhabited islands claimed by both Japan and China. Probably, it won’t be. Yet thanks to a disturbing confluence of events in those countries and Mr. Obama’s own commitments, the chance that it will happen is rising.

The Senkaku Islands, called the Diaoyu by China, have been under Japanese administration since 1895; for decades, China agreed to leave its claim to them on a back burner. But Japan’s nationalizationin September of three of the islets — undertaken in an attempt to head off an attempt by a nationalist politician to gain hold of them — provided China’s military and Communist leadership with a pretext for rabble-rousing.

In recent weeks Beijing’s provocations have escalated from dispatching surveillance ships to the islands to scrambling warplanes in response to Japan’s. China’s state-controlled media have been whipping up something like war fever, with one paper declaring that a military fight is “more likely” and the country “needs to prepare for the worst.” Disturbingly, this provocative and dangerous campaign has been overseen by the new Communist leadership under Xi Jinping, which has ample motive to divert attention from domestic problems.

The political climate in Tokyo, too, gives cause for concern. The new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is a nationalist who has packed his cabinet with politicians who share his aims of boosting Japanese defense spending and standing up to China. Japan has refused negotiations over the islands, declaring that there is nothing to discuss.

The Obama administration has been trying to defuse the dispute, dispatching a senior State Department official to Tokyo last week to call for “cooler heads to prevail.” But Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has also reiterated a position the administration first adopted two years ago: A security treaty binding the United States to defend Japan against attack applies to the islets. That public stance may have been intended to deter China from provoking a crisis, but it also magnifies the stakes for Washington. Should China attempt to seize control of the territory, Mr. Obama could have to choose between backing Japan in a military confrontation and a climb-down that would undermine the “pivot to Asia” he has placed at the center of his foreign policy.

Fortunately, there were signs of a cooling-off this week. Mr. Abe dispatched an emissary to Beijing with a letter for Mr. Xi. The Japanese leader, who has been invited to Washington for a meeting with Mr. Obama next month, should be looking for ways to ease tensions without rewarding Beijing’s belligerence. With U.S. help, it ought to be possible to return the issue of the Senkakus to the back burner, where it belongs.

"Pivot to Asia"? What is that? I've never heard the phrase in the US media but I've seen it mentioned numerous times in the Japanese media and tweets as some kind of a big turning point for the US. From the search results, even the US mainstream media is rather dismissive of Mr. Obama's strategy. Council of Foreign Relations calls it "unnecessary and counterproductive".


Anonymous said...

As much as I wish that the citizens of Tokyo had not allowed the obviously incompentent Ishihara to stay in office long enough to have started this argument, putting the Senkakus on "the back burner" is probably not the right approach at this point.

China's invasion of Tibet should have been a warning to the world. Their ongoing support of North Korea's abusive government also a red flag. Same with the conflict they refuse to settle with their neighbors in the South China Sea. Now China's invented claim to the Senkakus, and their bitter propaganda attacks on the modern Japanese further exposes the Chinese government's flawed and dangerous character.

It troubles me that western governments have allowed the lure of cheap labor and low priced manufactured products to justify providing so much funding to this monsterous government that distorts the truth, suppresses freedom of speech that might counter the propaganda, and violates the basic human rights that so many of our western ancestors gave their lives fighting to win, protect and preserve.

China would be wise to stand down until the money-grubbing governments of the west (now almost fully bought out by corporate interests) finally give the Chinese enough resources to completely devastate any and all foes.

Japan would be wise to put this matter to an international court, to expose the baseless Chinese claims, and at a minimum gain world support for Japan's case. To continue to deny that there is a dispute seems silly. Japan is being attacked. It should be seeking allies.

Whatever course world leaders decide, putting this on the back burner would only allow China to persist in its human rights abuses and military growth, unchecked, until the day they either change themselves internally, or they take over the entire world.

No this issue should be addressed now, while there is still time to act to put a much-needed check on China's behavior.

Anonymous said...

You sound like an LDP party PR department.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 3:24

Huh? Have you been reading this blog very much?

Anonymous said...

anon @3:50pm, I was taking to the first guy in the comment section, not the site admin.

I've been reading this blog even before it started to cover Fukushima.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be counting on the US for support regardless of what Clinton says. The US doesn't have the money to do squat. "Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project of the Project On Government Oversight, is a veteran military budget analyst. Asked whether the United States can put together enough money to fund a buildup in Asia, Wheeler says no. “It’s not going to happen,” he says. “It’s that simple. The military budget is going down.” The Pentagon, Wheeler says, cannot afford either more ships and planes or what some people believe is a quick-fix solution, namely, greater use of high-tech, remote-warfare drones, other unmanned vehicles, and long-range options. “It’s all too expensive,” he says".

What we say and what we do is usually two different things. The US government also said "As long as the wind blows, the grass grows and the water flows, this country will be yours".

This is the famous line from the treaty of Fort Laramie, which was signed after the bloody war between the US government and the Lakota (Sioux) nation in 1868. In United States v. Sioux Nation (1980), the Supreme Court upheld a $105 million award to eight Sioux tribes. It was compensation for lost land. It was lawlessly taken. The Court, however, denied what Sioux people most wanted – their land back. As a result, they refused the money. They reasserted their sovereign rights and the US yawned.

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