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Crouching Tigers and hidden Dragon

Crouching Tigers and hidden Dragon
Highlights

Crouching Tigers And Hidden Dragon. The difference has arisen over the perception of Chinese announcement and its implications on Beijing’s future relations with the regional countries. While China has brushed off the zone issue as a mere security measure, Japan and South Korea and to some extent Taiwan see their ‘hostile’ neighbour extending its belligerent power even into the space.

The difference has arisen over the perception of Chinese announcement and its implications on Beijing’s future relations with the regional countries. While China has brushed off the zone issue as a mere security measure, Japan and South Korea and to some extent Taiwan see their ‘hostile’ neighbour extending its belligerent power even into the space.
Last month’s Chinese announcement that it was setting up an air defence zone covering about a thousand kilometers from north to south above international waters separating China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan has put the US in a Catch-22 situation. While the former is a key trading partner, the other three countries are closely allied with the US through defence pacts and Washington’s commitment to their security is indisputable.
Beijing’s surprise and sudden move, in a way, has caught the East Asian nations off guard while the US whose interests in that region are strategic is in a quandary. Washington’s dilemma is born out of the fact that it doesn’t want to annoy Beijing by openly siding with its allies and at the same time can’t distance itself from their concerns over Chinese three-way land, water and air posturing which is widely seen as Beijing asserting its authority in the Asia-Pacific region.
Crouching Tigers And Hidden Dragon
But China sees nothing wrong in declaring an air defence zone which many countries, including the US, Japan and South Korea, have. Under such protocol, commercial airlines have to file flight plans with the respective countries’ civil aviation authorities and identify themselves if those aircraft want to pass through national airspace.
China says all aircraft entering the zone must notify its authorities beforehand or face unspecified action. So far, no action has been reported, though the US and others had flown through the zone without informing the Chinese. But the declaration has become a contentious point between Tokyo and Washington.
The difference has arisen over the perception of Chinese announcement and its implications on Beijing’s future relations with the regional countries. While China has brushed off the zone issue as a mere security measure, Japan and South Korea and to some extent Taiwan see their ‘hostile’ neighbour extending its belligerent power even into the space.
The mutual Sino-Japanese suspicion and mistrust has its roots in the World War II when Japanese occupation of the Mainland China had left deep scars on the Chinese psyche. While reconciliation efforts between one of the most industrialized countries and a rising economic power have only helped to balm the wounds of the Chinese, they have not forgotten the Japanese wartime atrocities. In recent years, as China started emerging as an industrial and military power and begun laying claim to two tiny islands, the rivalry between the two has become bitter and the war of words acrimonious.
The islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, claimed by both, have become strategic for Tokyo and Beijing, not for any riches on the fishermen’s islets but for asserting their regional authority in a region that is more dominated by Chinese aggressiveness and Japanese industrial power.
Since the Chinese air safety zone covers both the disputed islands, Japan and its allies are wary of Beijing’s future plans while Washington is unwittingly dragged into the row because it recognises Tokyo’s administrative control over the islands; by implication the US-Japan security pact applies to them. That means, if any conflict arises in future, the US is bound by the treaty to back Japan against China, a situation Americans would like to avoid.
However, such a situation is unlikely to arise for the simple reason that China, despite ratcheting up the islands row, may not turn it volatile to seek a military solution. More importantly, despite its rutted relations -- ranging from island disputes to claims to oil and gas and mineral deposits in the deep waters -- with East and South China Sea littoral states, China has extensive trade relations and they are important for a country that is aspiring to become No 2 Power in the world after the US. The new Chinese leadership’s postures and the air safety zone announcement indicate that Beijing wants to reassert its authority without being hegemonic, at least outwardly.
However, other regional countries see it differently. South Korea, for instance, is reported to have been building a new naval base for 20 warships, including submarines, arguing that it has to protect vital shipping lanes in the East China Sea for its exports. Japan is planning to build a new army base on an islet near the disputed islands by 2016.
Tokyo is also planning to strengthen its defences, for the first time after the World War II, by deploying F-15s and AWACS on US Marine base in Okinawa. The move, apparently, is the result of Chinese postures in the region and Japanese doubts about American commitment to the region. In other words, the countries that perceive China as a threat want to have the first line of defence without being overly dependent upon the US.
The new thinking among allies makes the US squirm with unease. To reassure them and to ease regional tensions, American Vice-President Joe Biden has begun six-day trip to Japan, South Korea and China. If press reports are any indication his talks with government leaders in Tokyo have not produced any tangible result on pacifying the Japanese or allaying their fears over Chinese muscle-flexing. Nor were they able to sort out their differences over the Chinese air security zone. While Japan and South Korea continue to defy Beijing demand, the US has asked its commercial airlines to oblige it citing global practices.
When Biden goes to Beijing, high on the agenda of talks will be the zone issue and the Obama administration has to walk tightrope balancing its trade ties with China and strategic relations with its East Asian allies. Whether the US succeeds in the exercise or not, the Chinese air security zone over East China Sea has caused enough consternation in that region. In the coming days, Beijing is threatening to move in a similar way over South China Sea. If it does, the Philippines will join the chorus of protests as it is locked in dispute with China over Spratly islands.
What remains to be seen is whether China is saber-rattling or is it preparing the ground for a sort of trade-off with the US.
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