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Does the United States Really Want to Instigate a China-Japan Maritime War?

Nov 28 , 2013
  • Ma Shikun

    Senior Journalist, the People’s Daily

A recent article by a Chinese scholar warned of a possibility that the United States is provoking a China-Japan maritime war. The scholar said that on the Diaoyu Islands dispute, the US, the real manipulator behind the scene, has made provoking comments in the favor of Japan. But its real motive, the scholar said, is to contain China and drag China’s rise by waging a small-scale “proxy war” using Japan as a puppet, at a time when China’s maritime military capability is still weak and developing. Such a caution-arousing assumption merits attention, but it is way apart from the actual situation, or in other words, it’s too early to jump to that conclusion. This writer believes that the US creates obstacles to hinder China’s rise and will continue to do so in the future, and will use Japan as its pawn and let Japan to play the role of “troublemaker” for China. However, instigating Japan to wage a war with China is not an option, or at least, it will not be in the foreseeable future. 

Ma Shikun

The scholar might have reached that conclusion on the basis of facts. The most convincing evidence is a range of activities and shows by the US and Japan surrounding the issue of the Diaoyu Islands. Japan’s aggressive and provocative acts and words toward China were, to a great extent, fueled by the US favor, instigation and support for Japan. 

Although the United States officially states that it does not take side on the sovereign dispute on the Diaoyu Islands, it also claims that the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan applies to the Diaoyu Islands. It also states time and again that it “opposes any unilateral actions that change the status quo.” This means it openly supports Japan’s long-term illegal occupation of the Diaoyu Islands. The US Congress even adopted a resolution blaming China for being “aggressive” on the issue. Cheap and worthless as it is, Japan was very much excited and encouraged by this resolution. Some high-ranking military officers of the United States also made similar remarks from time to time. 

It is worth mentioning that, however, the US pampering toward Japan has its bottom lines and is restrained by two factors – the US strategy towards China and US principles towards Japan. 

Let’s analyze the US strategy toward China first. China and the United States have built a strategic cooperation relationship, and the relationship between the developed big power and the emerging big power is still in a period of exploration. The two sides share extensive common strategic interests and are working to seek more converging points of common interests. It is no doubt that the United States wants to contain China’s development, but it considers China only as its competitor, not a practical rival. Judging from the current circumstances, it will be hard to believe that one side wants a war against the other. Secondly, China and the United States are highly inter-dependent in terms of economy and trade. Annual bilateral trade amounts to more than US$500 billion, and China holds about US$1.4 trillion in US government securities and bonds. Furthermore, low-cost and quality commodities from China play an instructive role for the United States to check inflation and improve people’s livelihood, and as a matter of fact, the United States is reaping benefits from China’s development. With this factor taken into consideration, the United States will not be that silly to do things that bring harm to China as well as to itself. Thirdly, the United States does not have the desire to wage a war with China, a huge country in terms of size and economy.  The United States and Japan are military allies. Once Japan launches a war with China, the United States, according to the logic of war, could not sit idle and benefit from the war. By taking all factors into consideration, the United States will probably not take the risks. 

Now, let’s examine the US principles toward Japan. The United States and Japan, since the end of the World War II, have been maintaining a kind of controller-controlled relationship, with no substantive changes so far. Although the United States has been helping Japan upgrade its military strength for its needs of containing China’s development and returning to the Asia-Pacific region, it does have a red line to keep: not allowing Japan to be militarily strong and independent enough, and not allowing its “control” over Japan to evolve into an “out of control” scenario. If Japan is to wage a war, it will have to abolish its “peace constitution”, which was drafted and enacted under the control of the United States, as well as rescinding various rules and regulations that were made to prevent the resurrection of Japanese fascist forces. If the militarism comes back to life again in Japan, the United States will be the militarists’ first target. 

China and Japan have all mobilized and deployed Coast Guards planes and vessels recently to show and exercise their sovereign power over the Diaoyu Islands, and there is a practical possibility of a military conflict triggered by accidents. Will Japan intentionally make trouble to challenge China and drag the United States into a conflict? This is a scenario that does deserve our highest attention. 

Ma Shikun is a Senior Journalist with the People’s Daily.

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