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Japan should not risk involvement in South China Sea issue

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

08-20-2015 17:02 BJT

By Minghao Zhao, research fellow at the Charhar Institute and adjunct fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China

Reportedly, Japan intends to give three Beech Craft TC-90 “King Air” planes to the Philippines as gifts. After retrofitting detection radars, the Philippines can use them to patrol the South China Sea. If this gets implemented, it will be the first time for Japan to donate the equipment of the Japanese self defense force to other countries.

Beijing feels discontented for good reasons. As Jeff Smith, director of Asian Security Programs at the American Foreign Policy Council said, Japan’s moves pertaining to the South China Sea issue in recent months are “very bold and very significant changes to a Japanese foreign policy that appears to be going all-in on a hedging strategy toward China”.

Although Japan is not one of the parties directly involved in the dispute, it is gradually increasing its intervention in order to confront China. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration repeated its talks about the so-called Chinese threat over “freedom of navigation” at the G7 Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum and other international multilateral occasions.

In recent months, Japan and the Philippines troops have held several joint drills. In late June this year, Japan and Philippines had deployed P-3 Patrols for search and rescue training.

Before Japanese naval vessels returned home, they conducted training with the Philippines Navy Destroyers in the West Manila waters. This is the first Japanese-Philippines joint training and Japan’s Defense Ministry intends to keep training as routine, holding them once every six months.

Japan and some Asian countries including the Philippines have held working-level discussions over defense equipment cooperation. In the next few years, Japan self defense force will retire a number of P-3C patrol aircraft, and hand them over to South-East Asian countries.

Japan seeks to expand its military presence in the region. Japan and the Philippines have entered negotiations so that Japan’s ships and aircraft have access to Philippines’ military bases.

Apparently, the Abe administration does not want to improve relations with China, but to deepen its strategic cooperation with friendlier nations mired in South China Sea disputes to contain China.

The push behind Japan’s actions is coming from the US, so they can both rule over maritime security in Asia.

Later this year, the US has invited Japan to join US-Australian exercises in Australia. Japan will also participate in the US-Indian Malabar exercise, while selling its advanced submarines to Australia and amphibious aircraft to India. Japan may likely launch joint patrols with the US in the South China Sea, despite dealing with political and legal obstacles.

In addition, the US is stepping up implementation of the “Southeast Asia Maritime Security initiative”(SAMSI), proposed by US Defense Secretary Ash Carter in June 2015. The US will invest more to upgrade the partners’ Maritime Domain Awareness, and considers Japan to be the most powerful partner for the US.

Japan is making major adjustments on its foreign and security policies. It is dangerous and irresponsible; however, that Japan has arbitrarily gotten involved in the South China Sea dispute. This will hinder Sino-Japanese relations, especially after friction over historical problems and the Diaoyu Island Issue.

Japan appears ready to upgrade the possibilities of its entrapment in armed conflicts in the South China Sea region. Japan will undertake exorbitant military expense burdens. Japan’s 2016 defense budget is likely to hit a record US$40.3 billion.

Actually, many Japanese oppose the Abe administration’s attitude on the South China Sea Issue and its posture against China. A poll on “70th Anniversary of the War end” conducted by Japan’s Kyodo News Agency in July shows that 76 percent of respondents hope for improved relations with China.

A Kyodo News editorial published argument against the Japanese government’s passage of the controversial Security Bills by claiming that China is its “imaginary enemy”, saying that would be a “dangerous gamble”.

At such a sensitive time, “70 years after the War end”, the Abe administration should be more cautious about the South China Sea Issue, not to blindly choose any subject and any site to confront China.

This would impede a true “reconciliation” between China and Japan, which is not only conducive to the interests of the two countries, but also is what its neighboring Asian countries expect.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


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