Japan in the South China Sea disputes

27/08/2014


The East and South China Seas are the scene of escalating territorial disputes between China and its neighbors, including Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Territorial disputes in the South China Sea involve both island and maritime claims among seven sovereign states within the region, namely Brunei, the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. So why Japan, a non-claimant states, has showed interests in these disputes in South China Sea?
There are various reasons for this activity. Japan’s principal security interest in Southeast Asia is the safety and security of regional sea lanes. As tensions have ratcheted up in the South China Sea over the past several years, Japan has expressed growing concern at negative developments and the lack of progress in implementing effective conflict management mechanisms. Japan is not a claimant, but as a major maritime trading nation it is a significant stakeholder in the dispute. Tokyo is alarmed at China’s increasingly assertive posture in the maritime domain, and views the disputes in the South and East China Seas as linked.
Japan has two major concerns over the South China Sea. First, that instability has the potential to disrupt the free flow of maritime trade
on which the country’s economic prosperity depends. Second, that if China is able to persuade or coerce other Asian nations into accepting its claimed “historic rights” in the South China Sea, existing international legal norms such as the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea would be undermined. This could dilute Japan's claim to ownership of the Senkaku Islands (which China calls the Diaoyus) in the East China Sea, if Beijing decides to use similar arguments.
To mitigate its concerns, Japan is pursuing a number of strategies: it raises the problem at regional security forums; it tries to encourage ASEAN unity on issues of maritime security; it discusses the problem bilaterally with Southeast Asian countries and provides capacity building support to selected claimants (principally the Philippines); and it seeks closer ties with other external stakeholders which share its concerns like United States and other countries.
It's significant that Japan is willing to antagonize China over a territorial dispute in which Tokyo has no direct stake (notwithstanding its own, separate territorial frictions with Beijing). Tokyo has always kept an eye on the South China Sea, but it was not until tensions began to ramp up after 2008 that it felt the need to take a more proactive approach to the dispute. It's now going to the next level by directly confronting China.
Despite these accomplishments, there is still one glaring shortcoming in Japan’s effort to strengthen its position in ASEAN: namely, its position on the Diaoyu/Senkaku Island dispute with China. Dropping its currently policy and embracing international law would significantly benefit both Japan and Southeast Asia.
Japan’s current policy also imperils ASEAN nations in their own disputes with China over various features in the South China Sea. To begin with, by refusing to acknowledge that a dispute exists over the Senkakus, Japan is helping to legitimize China’s refusal to acknowledge any disputes over features it controls in the South China Sea. By dropping its current Senkaku policy and appealing to international law to settle the dispute, Japan would be making China’s current positions on the South China Sea issue even more untenable. Beijing would be even more isolated in not acknowledging certain disputes as well as refusing to use international law and multilateral forums to peacefully resolve the various disputes in the China Seas.
Acknowledging the dispute and seeking international arbitration would be a clear demonstration of the kind of leadership role Japan wants to play in Asia. International arbitration could very well help reduce tensions in the region. Moreover, it would not only benefit Japan itself, but also strengthen ASEAN nations’ positions vis-à-vis China in the South China Sea.
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Curtis Conway 8/2/15 09:50

Well let's see . . .
1. China is building an artificial island within the Philippine Economic Control Zone West coast of Palawan Island, Philippines.
2. China has a drilling rig exploring for oil of the Vietnamese East Coast within its ECZ.
3. China has a huge fishing fleet that operates over a 1,000 miles from its mainland coast in the South China Sea between Vietnam and the Philippines.
4. China has stepped up expansion and militarization of Woody Island, and other locations in the area (South China Sea, mostly off the coast of the Philippines).
5. China is building the largest Coast Guard Cutter (10,000 ton ship) to . . . patrol its coast?!
6. China has flown provocative and dangerous armed intercept missions against US Navy patrol aircraft flying in international airspace off the coast of Hainan Island.
7. China's surface combatant fleet is growing at a rate that will place it on a par with the US Navy Pacific Fleet presence in the Western Pacific in about 2023, and China is building REAL guided missile frigates.
8. China has increased its amphibious ship capability significantly and is standing up additional amphibious vehicle unit combat power (about 3 Divisions +).
The Japanese and South Koreans are cooperating in a greater way recently: http://missilethreat.com/south-korean-aegis-destroyers-object-defense-japanese-navy/
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been increasing their defense budgets in leaps and bounds (a significant percentage) for the last few years, and looks like more escalations in future years.
The US is selling de-militarized P-3 aircraft to Vietnam for the first time.
The list goes on . . .
Do we have a 'Problem in the Pacific'?
Little or no Proactive presence . . . HHUUUMMMMMMM?!

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