End drift to war in the East China Sea : FT.com


End drift to war in the East China Sea

January 23, 2014 6:42 pm

Tokyo and Beijing must defuse rhetoric before it is too late

The possibility of war between China and Japan in the East China Sea is rapidly emerging as one of the biggest security risks facing the world. Unfortunately, the actions of the Chinese and Japanese governments are doing nothing to make conflict less likely.

The focus of the stand-off is a chain of disputed islands called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China. Although the islands are administered by the Japanese, China is making increasingly insistent claims to ownership. Last November Beijing wrongfooted Tokyo when it declared an “air defence identification zone” covering the airspace over the islands. In the subsequent war of words between both sides, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, poured more fuel on the flames by visiting a controversial shrine hated by the Chinese because it honours 14 convicted war criminals.

A new reason for concern has now emerged with Mr Abe’s appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. In a meeting with journalists, the prime minister not only defended his visit to the Yasukuni shrine. He also drew an explicit comparison between his nation’s rivalry with China and that which existed between Britain and Germany before the first world war. The extensive trade between the two European powers had not prevented them coming to blows, he said, adding that China and Japan were now in a “similar situation”.

Mr Abe may have intended simply to stress the seriousness of the current dispute. He said that war would be a tragedy and called for confidence-building measures, such as the establishment of a hotline between Beijing and Tokyo. But for Japan’s prime minister to allow any comparison with 1914 in Europe is chilling and inflammatory. It can only boost the frantic efforts to find some way to pull both sides back from the brink.

Mr Abe cannot escape blame for this impasse. For nearly a year now he has allowed nationalist sentiment to get the better of him. He should have resisted the temptation to visit Yasukuni. His recent calls for changes to Japan’s pacifist constitution are ill-timed and add nothing to the security of the disputed islands. It was also counter-productive while in Davos for the prime minister to point the finger at China’s military spending as the main source of regional instability. While China has certainly been spending heavily, Japan’s self-defence forces ? particularly on the high seas ? retain a technological edge Beijing cannot match.

None of this, however, absolves China either. Its decision to set up the “air defence” zone over the islands was a dangerous provocation, increasing the risk of an incident involving foreign aircraft. There are reports that at Davos, one influential Chinese figure even suggested to a private gathering that China could pull off a successful “surgical” invasion of the disputed islands. Such talk is lunacy.

Both sides should stop rattling sabres and start trying to talk to one another. Mr Abe’s hotline idea is a good one and should be followed up. There are no military-to-military contacts between Beijing and Tokyo. A hotline could defuse tension in the event of accidents or emergencies. But this cannot substitute for the urgent need for negotiations over the islands to begin at the highest level. For now Mr Abe and President Xi Jinping of China are putting obstacles in the way of any such meeting.
As a result, the US must make this gathering storm the focal point of its diplomacy. Washington has assured Japan that its security umbrella covers the disputed islands. The US must certainly warn China that it will stand by its ally in the event of any incursion by Beijing. But the US must also make clear to Mr Abe that he needs to refrain from nationalist posturing. Both he and Mr Xi should look for a route away from Armageddon before it is too late.


東シナ海で戦争へと向かう流れを止めるべきだ FT社説(フィナンシャル・タイムズ(翻訳gooニュース)) – goo ニュース

東シナ海で戦争へと向かう流れを止めるべきだ FT社説

(フィナンシャル・タイムズ 2014年1月23日初出 翻訳gooニュース)




新たな懸念の原因となったのは、今週の世界経済フォーラム(WEF)年次総会(ダボス会議)における安倍氏の発言だ。ジャーナリストたちとの会合で首相は、靖国参拝の正当性を主張しただけでなく、今の日本と中国の対立関係を、第1次世界大戦前の英独関係とはっきりと比較してみせたのだ。当時の欧州の二大列強は幅広い貿易関係をもつ間柄だったが、それでも武力衝突は避けられなかったのだと首相は述べ、今の中国と日本も「similar situation(似たような状況)」にあると付け足した。







「日中関係、第1次大戦前の英独」 首相発言と英で報道

ダボス会議 誤解招き政府釈明

[日本経済新聞 2014/01/24朝刊]




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