Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

US-Japan alliance guidelines show intent

By Zhou Yongsheng (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-13 07:40

However, the new one features global but not random expansion, and it is expected to add more weight to "threats" from regional powers such as China and Russia. In the meanwhile, besides interfering in affairs in the East China Sea (the "purchase" of three of the Diaoyu Islands), Tokyo is also making inroads into both the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

The previous guidelines highlighted cooperation between Japan's Self-Defense Forces and their US counterparts in both peacetime and wartime, while lacking a specific definition of "gray areas". For instance, the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands between China and Japan, according to Tokyo, is neither a wartime nor a peacetime affair, yet involves constant frictions and confrontations.

Such vagueness has always made it difficult for Tokyo to call for Washington's aid, which the former believes can be acquired through "seamless US-Japan cooperation", regardless of whether it is a wartime, peacetime or "gray" situation.

Though siding with Japan in the Diaoyu Islands dispute, the US however, has no intention of irritating China with unwise interventions, due to its tight economic ties with it. Also, given China's significant role in its regional and global strategies, Washington is bound to remain cautious and keep making vague statements.

Hence, the aforementioned report could be seen as an effort by Japan to change this; to "pre-secure" US military support should there be a military clash over the Diaoyu Islands. Japan is most likely pushing for a clear and sound commitment of military from the US.

It is also noteworthy that Japan's containment of China goes way beyond simply stirring up tensions in the East China Sea. By beefing up its exchange of cutting-edge technologies in cybersecurity with the US, Japan is still striving to be a major power, which is neither economically nor politically achievable, certainly in the short term. Therefore, Tokyo sees increasing its military muscle to contain a rising China as the quickest and most efficient way to achieve this.

The author is a professor of Japan studies at China Foreign Affairs University.

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