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With Japan's upper house election three days away, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Ishigaki and Miyako islands in Okinawa on Wednesday is a deliberate provocation to China. Talking to the self-defense forces there, he tried to kill two birds with one stone.
Abe wanted to give his Liberal Democratic Party, which is leading the opinion polls ahead of Sunday's election, a shot in the arm by vowing not to give in to China over their territorial dispute and criticizing China for its patrols in the waters off China's Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.
His stance will make it impossible for the two countries to find a solution to the issue. By changing the status quo, denying there is a dispute, and refusing to negotiate with China, Japan has shut the door on improving bilateral relations.
Abe is also using the issue to build up Japan's Self-Defense Forces.
An interim report on revised National Defense Program Guidelines is expected to be disclosed by the end of this month, and Akinori Eto, Japan's senior vice-minister for foreign affairs, is due to visit the United States later this month to consult with Ashton Carter, the US deputy secretary of defense, over the progress made in reviewing Japan's long-term defense policy, including boosting the SDF's marine capabilities.
Taking China as the supposed enemy, Japan says its SDF urgently requires upgraded capabilities so that it has the ability to carry out amphibious landings and can be rapidly deployed.
Japan's new defense policy, and the suspicions it has generated in the region, have fed into the climate of enmity the Abe administration desires, so it can realize its covert ambitions for a fully fledged military.
There is no need for China and Japan to go to war to settle the dispute. But Japan must take care that its military build-up does not lead in that direction.
China has tried to allow for the peaceful settlement of the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands by advocating the two countries adhere to their previous consensus that they shelve the dispute and jointly develop the resources.
But Abe persists in staging provocative shows that are alienating Japan from its neighbors.
Abe's beggar-thy-neighbor policy is leading Japan up a blind alley, where it will be a pariah in the international community.
(China Daily 07/18/2013 page8)