Sunday, June 02, 2013

Reinforcing Their Tendencies

India and Japan are bolstering their defense ties with each other as each worry about Chinese power and aggressive stances on territorial disputes. Looking at a map, it is clear that such ties aren't as valuable without American stitching the seams of this pairing together.

China may feel that after a millennium of ruling Asia, their rising power means they should resume that role. But after a century and a half of not having to bow to China's whims, Asian states don't want to go back to China's glory days. Japan and India are reacting:

During a three-day visit to Japan this week, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed several major infrastructure and defense-technology deals, and agreed to speed up dialogue on nuclear cooperation and conduct more joint naval exercises. His host, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, called Singh a “mentorlike leader.”

But the bonhomie appeared calculated, at least in part, to send a not-so-subtle diplomatic message to Beijing in the wake of a border row between India and China last month, as well as the dispute between Japan and China over resource-rich islands in the East China Sea.

Since these two countries are quite literally on opposite sides of China, China's interior position gives Peking the opportunity to defeat in detail this alliance even if Japan and India very closely coordinate their military actions.

Other states are also worried about China's rise, but there is no Asian NATO to coordinate and command the many forces that wish to keep the Chinese at bay:

Vietnam's prime minister called for unity among Southeast Asian countries as China asserts its claims to the energy-rich South China Sea, warning that any conflict could disrupt international trade and the global economy.

Tensions in the decades-old territorial dispute between six Asian claimants have risen in recent weeks after Chinese vessels converged near a ship the Philippines ran aground on a reef in 1999 to mark its territory.

"Somewhere in the region, there have emerged preferences for unilateral might, groundless claims and actions that run counter to international law and stem from imposition and power politics," Nguyen Tan Dung said in a speech on Friday at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual regional security forum in Singapore.

That is where America comes in. With our many bilateral defense agreements and military power that spans the entire Asia-western Pacific region, we provide the glue to hold together this--not alliance--but perhaps tendency to oppose China by making sure these states know that American help is available even if not much from other states near China can be counted on due to local defense needs.