1 July 2014, 19:41

US imperial ambitions in East Asia could push region to the brink of war

US imperial ambitions in East Asia could push region to the brink of war
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With the US seemingly working up tensions the world over, the Far East is another region facing the risk of major instability. The ultimate cause of potential conflict would be a standoff between the US and China that it would like to "contain". How great are the risks? Experts from Japan and China are sharing their vision with The Voice of Russia.

According to a recent poll by the Japanese newspaper, Mainichi Shimbun, 71 percent of respondents said they think Japan could get dragged into an armed conflict if the government allowed the exercise of the right to collective self-defense.

The plans for military reforms have triggered off a wave of popular protests. Monday, the 30th of June, in Tokyo 40,000 people went to the residence of the prime-minister protesting against the reforms, which, they said, would turn Japan into a war mongering country.

Says Professor Nobuo Shimotomai of the Hosei University in Tokyo:

Japanese public opinion is concerned about preserving the constitution, partly because it has guaranteed stability and peace through the post-war security system; and partly because we are not so certain about the character of the post-Cold War changes, especially after the Ukrainian crisis. So, Japanese public opinion is worried about the kind of uncertainty that we are facing.

You have mentioned the Ukrainian crisis. What kind of implications could be those reaching Japan?

Of course, the Ukrainian crisis is understood by the Japanese experts as a kind of regional conflict. But there is also the changing character of the post-Cold War international political climate. As I understand, the NATO’s eastward movement has changed the character of the East-West relations in the 1990’es. And so is the case with this Ukrainian crisis, especially after the annexation of the Crimean region.

So, we are not so certain about what kind of relationship has developed between the East and the West. Of course, a normalizing process in the eastern Ukraine is being worked on, it is a temporary crisis. But still, we are not so certain about what kinds of changes we are witnessing.

I’ve been talking to one of the American scholars the other day. He gave me a very interesting and yet somewhat alarming forecast. He said that the geopolitical trends are pointing to three regions, where war could break out in the near future. One is Europe, another one is the ME and he pointed to the Far East, as the third region.

With regards to the global conflict between the US and China, I don’t necessarily think that it will happen in the near future. Both the superpowers understand the limit and the possible result of the clashes, if that will happen. So, they both are realists and I don’t think that kind of global conflict or the world crisis and tension will develop in the near future.

Still, we are not so certain with regards to the regional level conflict between China and the US, partly because the American policy nowadays is a little bit in disarray. And on the one side, they want to shift eastwards. On the other side, because of the Ukrainian crisis, they again became more interested in the Atlantic theatre. So, I think the things are less certain, but still, I don’t want to exaggerate the level of the conflict.

If tensions between China and the US mount, what will be the position of Japan?

Japan is the ally of the US and the future is guaranteed by the security framework. On the other hand, the Chinese are accumulating especially the maritime strategic capabilities. Also, the other element facing the Far East is the uncertainty of the Korean Peninsula…

There are still mental or psychological, or historical challenges, and the economic conflicts. Of course, military and security level is very important. But we are not so certain about the character of the future development. That kind of uncertainty prevails and that causes tensions…

And now with a Chinese perspective here is Dr. Dai Changzheng, the dean and professor at the School of International Relations at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing:

The US’s intention is becoming more obvious. Last year I had a dialog with the China Radio International. At that time I did think that the US policy of a pivot to Asia is not necessarily the means to contain China. But now, I’ve changed my idea, because many signals have shown that the US’s intention of becoming involved is increasingly obvious. That is to say, as the only hegemony in the world the US would like to play a leading role in the East Asia and the Pacific region.

It is seen in some aspects. First, is that the US continuously sends the signals to its allies that whatever its ally is to do, since it is harmful to China, the US will support it. For example, the Philippines and Vietnam are now continuously trying to make trouble in the South China Sea under the Diaoyu Islands dispute between China and Japan. And I do think that the US is now tolerating its allies to be against China in a dispute in the South China Sea on the Diaoyu Islands issue.

And even with this its rebalancing, with a delicate policy of this year, the US would like to show its allies through many ways, for example, by the military drills continuously held in this region, that it is obviously there. Of course, I do think it also sends wrong signals to its allies, because whatever Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam would like to do in the Diaoyu Islands dispute and the South China Sea issue, the attitude of the US would be the most important for those countries, just because those countries misunderstood the signals of the US and they are becoming so aggressive in the disputes.

Misunderstood? How could it possibly happen?

I do think that those countries misunderstood the US policy or misunderstood the US signals. Although the US is now the only hegemony in the world, although the US has issues with the policy of a pivot towards Asia or rebalancing power in the Asia-Pacific region, the most important thing for me is that whether the US still has the capability or is still strong enough to play the leading role in such a region.

First, it is obvious that the US is now in the process of eventually declining and China now is increasingly rising. This is the first problem, that whether the US still has capability to rebalance in the East Asian region, and in particular the regional problems.

The other is that geographically and economically the US is not an East Asian country. Geographically and economically China has closer relationships with its neighbours in the East Asia. And it is obvious that geographically the US is far away from this region. This support to its allies, not only because of geographic reasons, but because of other reasons as well, is unreliable.

The first problem is that I do not think that the US still has the strongest capacity to play a dominant role in East Asia region’s problems. The second is that I do think that now the US policy towards China or towards its allies in the Asian regions is dangerous, because the US allies would understand it, as I just now mentioned, that the US rescinding oaths. In other words, it encouraged those countries to increasingly become distrustful or do not trust each other. And actually, the wrong signals would encourage the US allies to make trouble in this region.

What is it that could prevent the worst-case scenario?

Personally, I think that the US, the allies of the US and China still need more cooperation with each other. And though China has disputes with Japan and disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, those sides should first understand that the best or the most productive way to solve the problem or dispute is through a dialog. A dialog is the most significant or the most productive way for those countries to settle their disputes and settle their problems.

The second thing is that for those countries, still, cooperation is more important than confrontation. Only through cooperation those problems can find their ways to go away.

The third is that though countries, such as the US or the US allies, would like to go on with confrontation is one way or another. Actually, there are the relationships, especially the economic relations, and not just coming closer to each other.

We can say that no problems in the Asia-Pacific region could be solved without either the US or China, or the allies, such as Vietnam or the Philippines. To solve the problems, those sides should first consider what is the effective way to push their problems to a solution. This is my own point about the Asian region, especially about the relationships among China and the US, and the US allies.

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