Wednesday, April 24, 2013

You'd Think This is Fairly Clear

China should not think that they could get away with seizing the Senkaku Islands. Japan has provided fair warning.

The Japanese are determined to hold their islands despite Chinese pressure and claims. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe couldn't have been clearer:

"Since it has become the Abe government, we have made sure that if there is an instance where there is an intrusion into our territory or it seems that there could be landing on the islands then we will deal will it strongly," he said.

The warning came as eight Chinese ships sailed around the islands - called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

The Japanese coast guard said it was the highest number of Chinese boats in the area since Tokyo nationalised part of the island chain in September 2012.

The Japanese wouldn't wait for the Chinese to land before using force. If the Japanese think the Chinese are moving forces into position to land on the islands, Japan reserves the right to use force.

The Japanese don't want to repeat the Philippines experience:

"I lost my livelihood when we lost the Scarborough Shoal to the Chinese," said Mario Forones, a 53-year-old who owns three fishing boats that worked the reef for about a dozen years before armed Chinese vessels arrived in force last April.

Reuters interviews with fishermen in two coastal Philippine towns - some of whom tried to fish the shoal as recently as this month - show how the Philippines has effectively ceded sovereignty of the reef about 124 nautical miles off its coast after a naval stand-off last year.

The Philippines lacked the military power to contest the Chinese aggression. And we weren't going to go to war for the Philippines over the islands.

But we will surely help the Philippines build up their forces to compel China to use what would hopefully be a politically untenable amount of force to beat down the weaker Philippines.

But does China think that Japan is too weak to do more? Is the war still "accidental" if the Chinese simply don't believe the Japanese would use force if China attempts to occupy the islands?

UPDATE: The Chinese really don't like this practical expression of Japan's ability to follow through with their warning:

China said on Wednesday that "provocative actions" would not sway it from defending its territory, after Japan confirmed it would conduct military drills with the United States amid tension between Beijing and Tokyo over disputed islands.

Japan said on Tuesday that the joint drill, scheduled for June off California, involved the recapture of an isolated island but was not aimed at scenarios involving a specific country, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

The Japanese don't want to be in the position of the Philippines:

More and more Filipino fishermen are complaining to the government that they are being chased away from their traditional fishing areas off the Filipino coast by Chinese coast guard ships. This is particularly bad at Scarborough Shoal. This is in violation of a deal made last June with the Chinese. Not only did Chinese patrol boats soon return to Scarborough Shoal but Chinese fishing boats are again operating there and even erected a flimsy barrier (with rowboats, rope and fishing nets) across the entrance to the lagoon and forcibly preventing Filipino fishing boats from entering. Scarborough Shoal is in waters the Philippines claims (according to international law). The shoal is only 250 kilometers from the Philippines, and 1,200 kilometers from China.

The Philippines can't build a military strong enough to win a war with China. But the Philippines can build a military capable of defeating a small Chinese force at Scarborough Shoal and force China to decide whether to lose that battle or escalate to a level of force that could compel America to take notice and intervene.