Home > Uncategorized > South China Sea: U.S.-Japan Strategies Put Region At Risk

South China Sea: U.S.-Japan Strategies Put Region At Risk

Global Times
May 4, 2012

US-Japanese strategies put region at risk
By Zhou Yongsheng

External forces’ intervention in the South China Sea disputes has gradually become a reality despite China’s opposition against the externalization of the disputes. Last week, the US and Japan reached a new agreement on the joint use of the US military bases in the Pacific region.

According to media reports, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are expected to station forces alongside US troops in the Philippines. Once Manila approves, Japan, the US and the Philippines will conduct specific military training together in Philippine bases.

In recent years, countries like Vietnam and the Philippines have gained huge economic interests through developing gas and oil resources in the South China Sea region.

Driven by economic ambitions, they chase further expansion in the South China Sea, which intensifies the territorial disputes around the region. They see moving closer to Japan and the US as their strategy to prevent China seeking its legal rights over the South China Sea.

This provides favorable conditions and timing for Japan and the US to get involved in the South China Sea disputes.

In the process of refocusing its strategic attention to the Asia-Pacific region, Southeast Asia is an important US focus. For the last two years, the US has been increasing its strategic input in Southeast Asia.

Militarily, the US is seeking permanent stations in some military bases in this region. It has requested to return to the Subic Bay military base in the Philippines and to send its most advanced littoral combat ships there.

The US has also intensified military drills with different countries in the regions and waters around China. Though those drills are not all targeted at China, some are indeed aimed at deterring China and increasing US popularity in Asia.

Unlike the US, Japan acts quite subtly in intervening in the South China Sea disputes. But Japan lifted its restrictive policies on arms exports after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda took office. In essence this is a preparation to support countries involved in the South China Sea disputes by exporting weapons to them.

Besides, Japan also plans to supply patrol vessels to the Philippines and assist the country in training its coast guards.

These moves show that Japan is extending its military reach in the South China Sea, and the trend will further continue. A messy South China Sea situation is in Japan’s interests. As the disputes between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands have intensified recently, Japan hopes confrontations with China in the South China Sea could distract China’s attention.

The external intervention in the South China Sea dispute complicates the regional dynamics. As the US and Japan are backing them, countries like the Philippines and Vietnam become more and more arrogant and constantly provoke China in the South China Sea, including illegally detaining Chinese fishermen.

This time, the Philippines have even had a dozen days of confrontation with China, potentially risking a regional war. The countries involved are speeding up their military modernization by importing more advanced weapons, posing threats to regional stability and risking an arms race.

Directly and implicitly supporting relevant countries to check China is essentially a short-sighted strategy. This not only shakes the regional security, but also threatens the mutual trust between China and the US and Japan.

The US and Japan should recognize that countries like Vietnam and the Philippines may play an effective role in balancing China, but these countries’ ambition for regional hegemony may also be boosted in the process.

This short-sighted strategy comes at the cost of benefits that could bring overall and sincere cooperation among relevant parties.

The author is deputy director of the Japan Study Center at China Foreign Affairs University.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. lavender
    May 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Divide and conquer has always been the strategy of the Empire, it is really too sad to see countries such as Phillipines and Vietnam has not learned their lessons from their colonized past. The same master does not change its view upon its subjects.

  2. Lee
    May 5, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Are you saying that by not rolling over and allowing China to have its way (thru military aggression) that the other nations are simply being manipulated by the U.S.? That is foolish. Personally, I think they are acting in the only honorable manner left to them, since they cannot hope to confront China individually by themselves. Not only must they unite, but they need to ally themselves with a strong friend.

    • richardrozoff
      May 6, 2012 at 1:23 am

      That is to say, encircling China with a ring of military alliances, new bases – in Afghanistan, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia – and military exercises and ongoing presence in Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Japan, South Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, etc., will allow the U.S. “to confront China.”
      Whether you intended to or not you confirmed the concerns contained in the article.

  3. T Herbosa
    July 22, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    This article fails miserably in understanding what China is doing. China is invading territory within the UNCLOS 200miles exclusive econo mic zone of the Philippines. Philippines is not upset about Spratleys with many claimants. Secondly, China’s nine dash claim is as absurd as saying Italy owns half of Europe because the roman empire once ruled there!

    Please study the underlying legal claims and check the moral authority of each country. Secondly, it’s the communist government regime that is the problem, not China in general. If there will be war in the South China Seas, it’s because of lack of democracy and transparency within China. The average Chinese can figure out what is really theirs.

    • richardrozoff
      July 23, 2012 at 9:57 pm

      The merits of Chinese territorial claims in the South and East China Seas are far overshadowed by four other issues you fail to address:
      The U.S. is exploiting conflicting claims over the Spratly, Senkaku/Diaoyu and Paracel Islands to build an Asian NATO that is an order of magnitude larger than all the U.S.-created Cold War blocs in the Asia-Pacific region – CENTO, SEATO and ANZUS – combined.
      During the U.S.-China entente launched by the Nixon and intensified during the Ford and Carter administrations China pressed far more ambitious claims, including on the Asian mainland, without the U.S. objecting. When the common adversary, the Soviet Union, broke up, the U.S. started turning on China.
      China only claims islands off its mainland. Major NATO powers – the U.S., Britain, France, Denmark and the Netherlands – maintain islands possessions in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, often several thousand miles from their respective mainlands.
      As to “lack of democracy and transparency within China,” there is truly not more of either in the U.S. and other Western nations, which are ruled by unelected elites whose very names aren’t known to the vast majority of citizens.

  4. tony
    August 18, 2012 at 6:55 am

    Richardoz – seems to me you are so lost!. Your disdain of the West makes you object to what you think is bullying by the USA thru a possible NATO type alliance in S.E.A vs. China’s claim. Go take a few steps backward and open your eyes!

    Firstly, before going after the USA can you figure out the basis of China’s claim? It’s a unilateral nine dash line that even has no basis except that in some dynasty before, these areas were considered part of China. It’s as stupid as Italy saying half of Europe is theirs since the Roman Empire once ruled there.

    Do some research. The Philippine claim is based on the 200 mile economic zone. This is UNCLoS, not some unilateral claim. Furthermore, on Scarborough, since Spanish times these shoal was ours and we had possession already. Even the US air force target practiced with us in the 70’s. Where was China then when there were no confirmed major fossil fuels/gas deposits.

    China’s PLA style bullying of its neighbors – Japan, Philippines, Vietnam has awakened us all.. China will never have our respect. It’s greedy and it’s claims based on greed only.

    • richardrozoff
      August 18, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      The sovereignty of the Spratlys, like the Paracel, Kuril and Diaoyu/Senkaku island chains, is not a simple matter. And I certainly don’t claim to understand the intricacies of the rival claims.
      You’re correct about nations like China pressing claims based on ownership by a preceding political entity, and your example of Italy and the Roman Empire is apt.
      In the 1970s your argument was one I used myself vis-a-vis Chinese territorial designs, including in Indochina. But at the time China was the U.S.’s strategic ally vis-a-vis the Soviet Union and Vietnam, so the West didn’t criticize Chinese ambitions.
      But note your own claim that “on Scarborough, since Spanish times these shoal was ours” – when there was no Philippine political entity. I understand that Manila is not claiming, say, Puerto Rico or the Canary Islands as a result of formerly being part of the Spanish Empire, but claims to territory based on being a successor state to a foreign empire are always problematic.
      My “disdain of the West” is very simple and entirely justified. It can be explained in these words: Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Colombia, Ivory Coast.
      Whatever the nature of respective claims to the Spratlys may be, the fact that the “world’s sole military superpower” is building an Asia-Pacific NATO, and that strictly for its own purposes, is incontestable. And dangerous.

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