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Hiroshi Yuasa

【#354(Special)】China Taking Advantage of Lowered Guard in East China Sea

Hiroshi Yuasa / 2016.02.02 (Tue)

February 1, 2016

     While the eyes of the world have been distracted by China’s strategy of claiming a monopoly ownership of the South China Sea, Chinese public vessels have been increasing their presence in the waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is using Sunzi’s Art of War tactic of taking advantage of an enemy’s weak points in order to fight their opponents by means of deception. Therefore, Japan must remain vigilant and keep its guard up. Japan has been especially vulnerable to surprise attacks since 2014, precisely because Prime Minister Abe Shinzō and Chinese President remier Xi Jinping have been holding summit meetings and Sino-Japanese relations have been improving.

American Researchers’ Warning Article
     China continues to create artificial islands around the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, using the filled-in reefs as military bases. At a Sino-American summit meeting, Premier Xi again put forth the specious argument that “the islands in the South China Sea have been Chinese territory since antiquity,” thus rejecting American involvement in the area. Resisting this assertion, the Obama Administration last October sent Aegis guided missile destroyers to the waters surrounding the artificial islands, and at the end of January sent Aegis vessels to the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, as well. However, the second and third salvos in this “freedom of navigation” strategy are still lacking in strength.
     Chinese diversionary tactics are clever. While the world is paying attention to the South China Sea, Chinese public vessels equipped with automatic cannons have invaded Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Not only this, but there remains the suspicion that these public vessels encroaching on Japanese territory were actually Chinese naval frigates in disguise.
     On January 25, Arthur Herman, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute (which has ties with JINF) and Lewis Libby, Hudson Institute Senior Vice President, wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal in which they accurately warned that “China has a habit of directing international attention to one area while pulling maneuvers elsewhere.”
     Herman and Libby called attention to the fact that “Beijing has a habit of mixing dialogue with shows of force” reminding readers that, in the midst of talks with Indian high officials in both 2014 and 2015, President Xi dispatched Chinese troops to disputed areas along the Indian border.
     As the Chinese economic crisis worsens, Chinese leaders will be more likely to succumb to the temptation of expansionism in order to direct the brunt of popular discontent elsewhere. Herman and Libby warn that a brief, decisive battle in order to achieve political objectives is a possible scenario in the East China Sea.

The Democratic Party of Japan’s Obsession with the Political Situation
     Oddly, the Rand Corporation, an American think tank with close ties to the US military, recently published, in the foreign affairs journal Foreign Policy, the results of a simulation set in the Senkaku Islands. The essay’s analysis was that “in five days’ time China would achieve victory” in such a situation. Although I am somewhat skeptical of the simulation’s premises, the article nevertheless cannot be ignored as it outlines what might happen in the worst-case scenario. Japan must redouble its efforts to shore up the new security treaty legislation, while also working diligently to maintain the intimate connections forged through the Japan-American alliance.
     Adding to these alarm bells now being sounded by American security experts, Commander of the United States Pacific Command Harry Binkley Harris, Jr., checked China by reiterating, in a speech in Washington, DC, that “in the event of a Chinese attack, the United States will clearly defend Japan.”
     The problem now lies in the current Japanese government’s and the opposition parties’ poor understanding of the security situation. In particular, the top opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, has given itself over to a lackadaisical attitude regarding national security and is instead obsessed with domestic politics. This makes the Democratic Party of Japan wholly unqualified to take responsibility for protecting Japan’s security and prosperity.

Hiroshi Yuasa is Columnist for the Sankei Shimbun and Planning Committee Member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.