Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Hiroshi Yuasa

【#508】Free World Facing Dangerous World

Hiroshi Yuasa / 2018.04.19 (Thu)

April 16, 2018

     The latest military strike by the United States, Britain and France on Syria may have indicated that the United States, though having been tired of engagement in world affairs, managed to remain a strategic command of the free world. The strike directly deterred Russia that is supporting Syria while indirectly checking China and North Korea. Their dictatorial and authoritarian regimes are challenging the international order. Furthermore, multiple crises unfavorable for the United States tend to occur simultaneously in a manner to complicate international situation.

U.S. strike on Syria can check China and North Korea
     Whether the United States could do anything about the “crime against humanity” by the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad that used chemical weapons against its own citizens had been the greatest matter of concern to all dictatorial regimes and countries under their pressure. In East Asia, particularly, North Korea developing nuclear missiles and China militarizing artificial islands in the South China Sea, as well as Japan, Taiwan and other coastal countries whose security was threatened, were closely watching what Washington would do.
     Five years ago, the previous U.S. administration led by Barack Obama hesitated to launch military actions against the Assad regime and chose not to strike Syria on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pledge to lead Syria to dismantle chemical weapons. The weak U.S. decision symbolized the decline of the United States in the world. U.S. weakness encourages assertive actions by dictatorial countries.
     Just one year ago, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered 59 cruise missiles to be fired against Syria for the Assad regime’s another use of chemical weapons, sending a message to Chinese President Xi Jinping who was meeting with Trump at his Mar-a-Largo resort in Florida. The military action exerted pressure on the Assad regime and demonstrated Trump’s determination to block North Korea from developing nuclear missiles.

Tensions growing in the Straits of Taiwan
     As the Trump administration decided to strike Syria, China demonstrated unfavorable moves for the United States in East Asia. In the South China Sea on April 12, Chinese President Xi was attending China’s biggest ever naval fleet review. On the same day, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army came up with a plan to prohibit navigation at some part of the Taiwan Strait for live-fire drills from April 18. It cannot be denied that the drills could be related to the U.S. decision to strike Syria. In a manner to check the United States, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China and Russia as full strategic partners would have to enhance cooperation as the international situation is complicated.
     China’s large-scale firing drills indicate its determination to shake the United States that is revising its Taiwan policy. They represent a reaction to the U.S. Congress’s passage of the Taiwan Travel Act for promoting an exchange of visits between senior U.S. and Taiwanese officials and to a U.S. decision to have naval ships call at Taiwanese ports. Accordingly, the Trump administration must be prepared to respond to a contingency in the Straits of Taiwan while penalizing Syria’s reckless use of chemical weapons.
     The Trump administration chose the limited strike on Syria with Britain and France. It had to strike chemical weapon facilities with a blitz and immediately pay attention to the Taiwan Strait to check China’s adventurous military action. It is frustrating that Japanese politicians remain preoccupied with the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen scandals even in the face of China’s challenge and the fast-changing North Korean situation.

Hiroshi Yuasa is a Planning Committee Member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals