Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tokyo -- No bridges over troubled waters in Asia

August 4-5, 2011 -- Tokyo -- No bridges over troubled waters in Asia
publication date: Aug 3, 2011
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August 4-5, 2011 --Tokyo -- No bridges over troubled waters in Asia

As the United States continues to fade as a global military and economic power, competing nations in Asia are vying to fill the vacuum left by the United States. Nowhere is the scramble by regional rivals more evident than in the waters of the northeastern Pacific.

Because Japan no longer trusts the quality of United States intelligence, it has embarked on creating its own foreign intelligence service, modeled on Britain's MI-6. U.S.-Japanese intelligence cooperation has existed since the end of World War II, but Japanese officials do not believe the United States has shared with Japan the type of intelligence that is seen as important for Japan's own national security interests in Asia.

The twin decline of the economies of the United States and Japan has prompted China to exercise a more aggressive stance, especially with regard to Taiwan and disputed maritime boundaries and islands in the waters of the eastern Pacific, including the South China and East China Seas.

Currently, China has a massive naval presence ringing the Japanese island of Okinawa, where the United States maintains a large military presence. The Chinese are conducting their naval exercise to demonstrate to the Americans that China can interdict the transport of U.S. Marines and aircraft to Taiwan in the event of a Chinese military attack.

China is also building a fleet of super-modern aircraft carriers, with the first expected to be deployed in 2015.

China has also become more aggressive in interdicting U.S. spy flights conducted near its waters, especially in the Taiwan Straits.

Japan and China are facing each other down over the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, with Japanese Coast Guard vessels keeping a close eye on a Chinese maritime research vessel that had been deployed to waters off Uotsori island, part of the Senkakus, which are currently controlled by Japan. Taiwan also lays claim to the Senkakus.

Not only are Japan and China disputing the ownership of islands in the East China Sea, but Japan and South Korea are currently locked in a bitter dispute over some rocky and practically uninhabited specks of land in the Sea of Japan called the Liancourt Rocks. Japan claims what it calls the Takeshima islands but South Korea, which calls the islets Dokdo, also claims ownership. South Korea has upped the ante by announcing plans to build a base on the islands, a move that is bound to trigger a response from Japan.

North Korea also claims the Liancourt Rocks.

China and South Korea both claim Socotra Rock, a submerged rocky mass in the East China Sea.

Rival claims to the Spratley and Paracel islands in the South China Sea, has nations seeking to enforce their claims scrambling to build up their own military forces and forge new alliances. The United States and Vietnam are establishing new military links. Vietnam is locked in a war of words with China over rival claims to the Paracels. Tensions have also increased between the Philippines and China over sovereignty of disputed Spratley islands, as well as Scarborough Shoal. Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei have also staked claims to the islands.

Currently, the maritime boundary and island disputes have been relegated to wars of words and military "show of force" exercises. However, with American influence receding, it is only a matter of time before the chest beating between the rival regional powers could escalate into something more dangerous to the peace of the region.

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