As Japan and the United States begin to discuss armed incidents aimed at Japan and how to respond on such situations, some Tokyo government officials have expressed concern over their ally’s hesitation to counter China’s bullying. While Japan has underscored perceived threats from its Asian neighbor regarding Japanese-administered islands in the East China Sea at a bilateral defense review meeting in Hawaii this week, the United States shifted focus on broader discussions.
Their ally recognizes Japanese control over the Senkaku Islands, disputed by China and called the Diaoyus, and has acknowledged it as part of the U.S. – Japan Security Treaty, which compels the U.S. to come to Japan’s aid. Despite this, U.S. seems intent on steering clear from any conflict between the two. A Japanese government official said, “Japan wants to prioritize discussions on China and clarify the respective U.S. and Japanese roles in the event of a ‘grey zone’ incident,” hoping for the U.S.’ participation in drafting scenarios on how the two nations could cooperate in specific situations. Others, however, have sensed the U.S. concern in provoking China by being too particular. Former national security adviser Narushige Michishita said, “The United States is certainly ambivalent about this because they think it would drag them into a confrontation and possibly a conflict with China.”
A defense official from the U.S. countered the allegations saying, “It’s not about any particular contingency. It’s about making the U.S. – Japan alliance more flexible and responsive to a security environment that’s not as black and white as we were thinking about in 1997.” He further added that the U.S. is keen on having a borader perspective to address all security threats and not just to limit it to China. As concerns on the U.S.’ unwillingness to come to Japan’s aid, Abe’s continuous actions to strengthen military armaments seemed to be in order. Michishita, now a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo believes that U.S.’ reluctance to get involved “would undermine the credibility of the alliance and might end up encouraging China to be bolder.” As such, priority in the meeting has shifted to “grey zone” incidents from missile and nuclear programs of its neighbors, as seen in the guidelines in 1997.
With the update on the U.S.-Japan guidelines, Japan hopes to boost its military and unload the burden of its pacifist constitution on its self-defense forces. However, with many Americans opposed to involvement in foreign wars, thanks to the impact of Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. will most likely continue to steer clear of the conflict. With the talks, U.S. might be able to cement involvement in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, rather than direct military intervention.
[via The Star]