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Selling more arms to Taiwan and committing to Japan on Diaoyu Islands will eventually harm its own interests
President Barack Obama early this year signed into law the United States' National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which the Senate and House of Representatives passed in December. The act includes two sections that involve China's core interests, namely one asking the US president to "take steps to address Taiwan's shortfall in fighter aircraft through the sale of F-16 C/D aircraft" and the one stating that "the US reaffirms its commitment" to the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security with regards to the Diaoyu Islands dispute. This is an alarming move. The US legislators think they are safeguarding the US' national interests but they are actually harming them.
Since 2008, the relationship between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan has witnessed peaceful development, and the current state of dtente and stability is unprecedented. The cross-Straits economic ties have never been so close; mutual visits by ordinary people never so frequent; and the bilateral political and security relationship never so stable. Such constructive interactions are not only in the interests of the people on both sides of the Straits, they also add to peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
A constructive cross-Straits relationship is also in the interests of the US. It can reduce, and even prevent, the risk of a "Taiwan independence"-induced crisis, which would lead to tension in the Sino-US relationship and even a military conflict.
Whether the two sides across the Straits can maintain a peaceful relationship depends on the recognition of one China. The US' sales of high-tech arms to Taiwan will never bring about a balance of military power across the Straits. Instead, it will cause tensions in the region and lead to major retrogression in the Sino-US relationship. It is shortsighted and dangerous to jeopardize the US' long-term strategic interests to meet the private interests of a few US politicians and certain interest groups, including arms manufacturers.
The Diaoyu Islands and their affiliated islets have been China's inherent territory since ancient times. Diplomatic frictions between China and Japan over the islands are longstanding. However, the recent move taken by the Japanese government to "nationalize" the Diaoyu Islands is a clear violation of China's sovereignty over the islands and has caused the bilateral relationship to plunge to its lowest point since the two countries normalized diplomatic ties 40 years ago.
Constant tension in the Sino-Japanese relationship is harmful to Northeast Asia's security, stability, peace and prosperity, and will adversely impact the recovery of the global economy. All nations and politicians should play a positive role in seeking to improve Sino-Japanese relations. The US often lectures other nations, asking them to be responsible. However, it says one thing and does another, and it has been adding fuel to the flames in the dispute between China and Japan.
The US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security is a bilateral arrangement forged in a particular historical period. It should not harm the interests of any third party, let alone interfere in a territorial dispute between other countries. US officials have said on many occasions that the US does not take sides in the dispute over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan. The US government should live up to its words.
It is an alarming fact that Japanese society is turning more and more conservative, and a few politicians are provoking rightist sentiment in the country by trying to change the political pattern in East Asia that was established with a US-led effort after World War II, and by seeking to break the restrictions imposed by Japan's Constitution drawn up under the US' supervision. The current moves by the US will inevitably encourage the Japanese rightists in their challenge to China's sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and will aggravate the conflicts between China and Japan. Once Japan breaks the bounds of the pacifist constitution, the unbridled rightist movement will spin out of control. By then, it will be too late for the US to change tack.
The US politicians may hope that their latest move will appease Japan and put pressure on China. But they have not realized, or do not want to realize, that the move will eventually harm the US. If Japan, backed by the US, adopts a more aggressive attitude over the Diaoyu Islands, it will undoubtedly meet a staunch reaction from China politically, economically, diplomatically and even militarily.
Peaceful development is an important part of China's strategy for realizing socialism with Chinese characteristics. China is concentrating all of its efforts on economic development in a bid to develop itself into a well-off society. This is the main goal of the Chinese nation. However, this doesn't mean that China will allow itself to be humiliated and provoked for the sake of maintaining lasting strategic opportunities. China never fires the first shot, but it will resolutely fight back if its national interests are violated.
Should a violent confrontation occur between China and Japan, it will not only harm the interests of both countries, it will also drag the US into the abyss of war. It's never too late to change. If the US stops before going over the cliff, it can avoid falling into the abyss. It is necessary to advise those US statesmen who have the right political wisdom and courage to come to the front to safeguard the regional peace, stability and prosperity, and stabilize the relationship between China and the US.
The author, a navy rear admiral, is former director of the Strategic Study Institute of the University of National Defense. www.chinausfocus.com
(China Daily 01/15/2013 page8)