Japan's growing rashness

Updated: 2012-07-26 08:00

(China Daily)

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To escalate tension with China over Diaoyu Islands, Japan has chosen to play the same game twice this month. According to the Japanese media, Japan's Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said on Tuesday that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "had confirmed" that the "Senkaku" (Diaoyu) Islands fall within the scope of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.

Two weeks earlier, an official from the US State Department was quoted by the Japanese media as having made similar remarks.

Whether Clinton and other US officials have actually said so is not important because neither Japanese nor US claims will alter the fact that the Diaoyu Islands have been part of Chinese territory since ancient times. Neither Japan nor the US is in a position to impose a bilateral security pact on or infringe upon the interests of a third party.

Yet it would be interesting to analyze why Japan has repeatedly made use of its security treaty with the US to shore up its unwarranted territorial claims over China's Diaoyu Islands.

The answer is simple: The 1960 US-Japan security treaty requires the US to defend Japan in the event of an armed conflict. Should the current dispute continue to escalate into a major conflict, Japan would be "justified" in evoking the treaty and asking for direct US involvement or even military intervention.

The necessity of countering China over the dispute has partly motivated Japan to strengthen its military alliance with the US. The arrival of a shipload of the US military's latest Osprey transport aircraft in Japan on Monday has been interpreted by the Japanese media as a potential move to help defend the islands.

On the other hand, establishing a stronger military presence in the region is seen as a necessary step in the US strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific.

It should be noted, too, that the US upholds its official line when it comes to territorial disputes. For example, the US State Department spokesman reiterated on July 9 that Washington does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands.

Japan has taken advantage of the US ambiguity over the issue. The potential US support and its exhibition of war machinery in the region have in one way or another encouraged Japan to take one reckless move after another over the Diaoyu Islands this year, which will prove misguided.

(China Daily 07/26/2012 page8)