Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bracing for Impact

If China keeps pushing in the East China Sea and South China Sea, they're going to meet resistance eventually.

Instead of waiting in line to take their turn at getting a beating from Peking, neighbors seem determined to stop China's creeping aggression at sea:

On Friday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Singapore forum that Tokyo would offer its "utmost support" to Southeast Asian countries in their efforts to protect their seas and airspace, as he pitched his plan for Japan to take on a bigger international security role.

In a pointed dig at China, he said Japan would provide coast guard patrol boats to the Philippines and Vietnam.

We have pointedly said we will stand with those who stand against China:

Using unusually strong language, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told an Asia-Pacific security forum that the United States was committed to its geopolitical rebalance to the region and "will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged".

Our position is clear. Although we take no positioin on ownership of any islands, we insist that ownership be decided by negotiations. And regardless of who owns them, we insist on freedom of navigation for ships and planes through what is international waters and air space.

In practice, this means we oppose China which seeks to take islands from others and which declares the region part of China, contrary to international law.

China, unfortunately, seems determined to keep pushing:

"We will never stir up trouble, but will react in the necessary way to the provocations of countries involved," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying in a meeting on Friday with Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia.

That might seem reasonable, except that China considers opposing China's expansive claims as provocations.

So there will be some shooting at some point. Ideally, our support can help allies win small-scale clashes while our military power (along with Japan's, increasingly--with a likely assist from Australia) deters China from escalating to measures that allies (other than Japan) can't handle without direct American intervention.

In a perfect world, ASEAN unites to oppose Chinese territorial claims while Japan and Australia (and South Korea, as it looks beyond the DMZ) build capabilities to fight with us against China if needed, and China reacts by looking at an easier target to intimidate and defeat--Russia.

UPDATE: Related:

TEMPERS frayed rather alarmingly at this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual forum for Asia's defence establishments, held in one of the eponymous hotels, in Singapore. First Japan and then America criticised China. Then China reciprocated in furious terms.

This does not reassure me. China is getting very clear notice that their neighbors think China's actions are unacceptable. If China either doesn't believe them or doesn't care, there will be shooting. The questions then becomes how long does the shooting last and who joins in?