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What show is US and Japan playing on issue of S China Sea?

2015-02-10 10:02 China Military Online Web Editor: Wang Fan

Japan's Defense Minister Gen Nakatani spoke at a press conference on February 3, 2015 that "the situation in South China Sea is having a growing impact on Japan's national security. How to deal with it will become a subject of concern in the next step".

He also said there is no limit on Japan's self-defense forces' alert and monitoring areas. The implication is that Japan is "concerned" about the situation in South China Sea and is possible to intervene South China Sea affairs with its self-defense forces as "necessary".

Gen Nakatani made the above comments as a response to the related speech by Robert Thomas, commander of the United States Navy Seventh Fleet.

Robert said during an interview of Reuters that to balance the more and more powerful maritime forces of China in the South China Sea, the US welcomes Japan to expand its air patrol to the air over the South China Sea region. He also said the action of Japan's maritime self-defense forces in the South China Sea is "significative".

What show is the US and Japan playing by acting in tune with each other on the South China Sea issue?

The US is scheming to kill three birds with one stone

In recent years, the US has been vigorously promoting its rebalance strategy in the Asia-Pacific region out of two considerations: first, it wants to create a strategic diversion and containment on the rising China; second, it will also take the opportunity to enhance its control over its allies.

On the Diaoyu Islands issue, the US sent out conflicting messages on different occasions, attempting to stir up the rivalry between Japan and China. While on the issue of South China Sea, since some claimants of sovereignty in the South China Sea area are weak, the US incites Japan who is seeking "military normalization" to enter the area for maritime patrol.

The US wants to kill three birds with one stone: first, it provokes conflicts with the strength of Japan's self-defense forces, which sets the scene for US's military intervention of the South China Sea issue; second, it stays in the background and avoid direct confrontation with China, enjoying more room for maneuvers; and third, this will lead to the containment of China and Japan, and even injuries to both sides, which the US has been craving.

A perfect excuse for Japan to go out

Japan is also coveting a chance to go out to the sea with consent of the US to promote its military normalization in an effort to become a "normal country" and a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

The US's nod on Japan's involvement in the South China Sea issue is exactly what Japan wants.

On the one hand, Japan can seek more allies under the guise of "maintaining the stability in the South China Sea" to stem China in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, increasing its leverage against China.

On the other hand, in the name of "military normalization", the Japan self-defense forces' stepping out of its surrounding area will mean a big breakthrough. Its significance goes beyond the South China Sea area, and the military sector.

This trick is not Japan's first try. During the Gulf War, Japan's maritime self-defense forces once dispatched minesweepers, the first time Japan sent out its troops to overseas areas after the WWII. In 2011, it also established overseas military facility in Djibouti under the banner of "anti-piracy".

In recent years, Japan has launched frequent and large adjustments in security decision making and military security policy. It promotes the lifting of the ban on collective self-defense, and strives for expansion of the US-Japan military security cooperation from its surroundings to the whole world. If Japan sends its self-defense forces for maritime patrol in the South China Sea, it is undoubtedly another try of such tricks.

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