The Diplomat recently an article on the dispute between China and Japan by Michael D Swaine and Rachel Esplin Odell.
While Japan’s PM is gearing up to step more boldly into the territorial dispute against China, it is still hindered by its post WW2 constitution. US, its military ally, is also probably unwilling to encourage Japan to normalize military if it wishes to continuing courting China. That being said, Japan’s PM, Shinzo Abe, may still attempt to raise the ceiling for its military spending in hope to signal Japan’s firm stand on the matters.
China, on the other hand, while flexing its military muscle, is also unlikely to back off from the matter. While unlikely to be outright militarily aggressive to Japan, China’s robust economic growth means that its military might will only grow beyond Japan’s hope to catch up. China can afford to be cooperative while leaning a little on its military arm.
The trinity in this dispute is of course our global police, the USA. While its economy is fledgling and dependent on the production might of China, USA cannot afford not to look towards the east. USA must continue to play a balancing game between supporting its ally, Japan and not antagonizing the sleeping giant, China.
What is needed, according to the authors, is a means of resolving the tension. Mechanisms and Rules of Engagement are required between China and Japan to avoid escalating the situation. Both sides need to acknowledge the existence of a dispute and be willing to discuss the possibility of a compromise. Operationally, both sides must understand the other’s viewpoint and avoid escalating tensions based on misconception or misjudgement of capabilities and intent because of the fog of war.
Generally, I agree with the authors viewpoints on the dispute. However, based on my limited interactions with Chinese and Japanese naval officers, both sides are quite adamant in their rights to the islands. I paraphrase the words of a Chinese admiral at a security conference, “There is no dispute nor cause for worries about military escalation in the region. China is here to resolve any issues.” This is rather worrisome…