Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Senkakooky: US launches itself into island dispute

Posted by Charles II on November 27, 2013

Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian:

US warplanes have directly challenged China’s claims of an expanding territorial air defence zone, flying dramatically and without incident on Monday over a disputed island chain [the Senkakus/Diaoyus].

Lieutenant Colonel Tom Crosson, a defence department spokesman, said the planes were not armed and flew “as part of a long-planned training sortie”. The Chinese did not in any way attempt to challenge the planes’ flight, Crosson said, nor did the pilots announce themselves to any Chinese authorities.

A comparable US military challenge to Chinese power has not happened for nearly two decades

The Chinese are IMO behaving very badly. The Senkaku/Diaoyu islands are not important to the Chinese nor, of course, to the Japanese. None of their citizens live there. They are only useful as chits to win military and economic advantage. That’s a good sign that they should be made independent of all.

Instead, we seem to be drawn inexorably toward war.
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Update: US, Japan, and S. Korea send aircraft through China’s newly-annexed “air defense zone;” China responds by sending an aircraft carrier into the Taiwan Straits.

Update, 11/29:: So of course the Chinese retaliate by sending their own jets into the Senkaku airspace.

Image from BBC (image from here
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Update, 12/8:

And now S. Korea jumps in. Reuters:

South Korea’s Defence Ministry said that in expanding the zone to include two territorial islands to its south and a submerged rock also claimed by Beijing it has fully explained its position to related countries.

10 Responses to “Senkakooky: US launches itself into island dispute”

  1. Stormcrow said

    Instead, we seem to be drawn inexorably toward war.

    I doubt this.

    The PRC and its neighbors have been engaging in this sort of infantile nationalistic dicksizing ever since 1950.

    Absent a Maggie Thatcher in embryo in the upper ranks of the PRC hierarchy, or something as blatantly and insanely provocative as the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (who was the Imperial Heir, for crying out loud), this isn’t going to go much further.

    If for no better reason than the fact that the PRC is NOT yet in possession of an even halfway mature blue water navy. In another 20 years, who’s to say. But not today. So they CANNOT push beyond a certain point; they lack the resources.

    And they don’t enjoy being very publicly embarrassed: remember what happened when they tried to use military muscle to bring Vietnam around in 1979? Screwups like that are a really good way to get ones self forced into early retirement.

    • Charles II said

      I also remember in 2001 when they forced down a US aircraft and sent it back, disassembled.

      I hope you’re right that we aren’t being drawn into war. But previously this was Japan and China comparing genitalia. Now its the US and China.

  2. Stormcrow said

    FDChief has a post about this up at MilPub: ADIZzy in the East China Sea. Good blog to visit for other reasons, too; FDChief writes very well-informed and clear military analysis and history. And he doesn’t need rabies shots. Unlike a few other bloggers I could name, some of whom don’t even have service records.

    His take on this, is that the Chinese government is basically behaving like assholes over a few worthless rocks. But he figures this will fall out pretty much the same way I did: it won’t amount to a hill of beans in the long run.

    I do think it’d be wise to pretty much expect the PRC ruling elites to act like dicks in situations like this, when they figure either that they can get away with it, or that the costs of failure are acceptable.

    The country as a whole got slammed HARD over the course of the last couple of centuries, often by foreign powers acting like even worse dicks, and they have long memories. So I expect some erosion of common sense about nationalistic issues right now. And not just among the rulers. I figure the Chinese populace in general is probably a bit on the jingoistic side. Given recent history.

    There’s a limit to how far against the stream even a single-party regime can steer, without having own their people turn on them.

    Heaven knows there are enough precedents for this sort of behavior in European history.

    • Charles II said

      There are some points which I can’t agree with. First, the islands are not “worthless.” If China could get its claim to them recognized, it could expand its economic zone to include areas that are believed to be hydrocarbon rich. There’s also the matter of having undisputed sea lanes, another issue that Japan and China have sparred over.

      Second: analysis of foreign affairs does not require having military credentials. Indeed, one can point to numerous idiots with awesome military credentials who have managed to totally f–k up the wars they were fighting based on errors no tyro with the slightest knowledge of area history could manage. Westmoreland? Tommy Franks? Petraeus? But of course there are also many people with a military background who have done brilliantly in part because of their understanding of history and the region.

      Using an appeal to authority instead of reason? I’m disappointed.

      Third, I am well aware of the roots of Chinese nationalism, how European (and American) misbehavior helped stoke them, and how they play out in foreign affairs. There’s also the issue of Japanese nationalism and how it is playing out in this dispute. And there’s the issue of American nationalism, which is probably behind any rabid blogging.

      So, is war imminent?

      No.

      Is there a vital interest involved for any of the parties?

      No. This is a point that I have been quite clear about.

      But have the confrontations been escalating rather than diminishing?

      Yes.

      Has any mechanism emerged to resolve the dispute?

      No.

      Are the leaders of the respective powers acting rationally?

      In the case of Japan, probably not. The PM and his party seem to want confrontation. In the case of China, it’s unclear. As you say–the Chinese are behaving like a–holes. They may have reasons, notably the deep unhappiness in China and the desire to focus the national energy outwards rather than toward fixing their own problems. The fact that others have historically treated them similarly is the worst sort of excuse, a sort of we know from personal experience how that creates long term enemies, so let’s do the same.

      In the case of the US, the policy is worryingly ambiguous. And then there’s Taiwan, which has its own territorial claim, which it may be asserting on behalf of Beijing, adding another layer of ambiguity. Not to mention how a precedent in the settling of this dispute could radically alter other regional island disputes.

      Is there a potential for miscalculation between two nuclear-armed powers?

      Yes.

      What we see at present is sparring. China can afford to wait. When it annexes Taiwan, and that’s agreed by everyone to be only a matter of time, the Japanese claim to the Senkakus is weakened, perhaps even becoming a liability. Why aren’t the Chinese using a pathway that is both legal and feasible? They exert substantial influence over Taiwanese politics already.

      How does this situation resolve itself? If one can’t see a path other than military confrontation, then that has to be regarded as the most likely, even if it is not very likely.

      • Stormcrow said

        Second: analysis of foreign affairs does not require having military credentials. Indeed, one can point to numerous idiots with awesome military credentials who have managed to totally f–k up the wars they were fighting based on errors no tyro with the slightest knowledge of area history could manage. Westmoreland? Tommy Franks? Petraeus? But of course there are also many people with a military background who have done brilliantly in part because of their understanding of history and the region.

        Using an appeal to authority instead of reason? I’m disappointed.

        If you had read the second through fourth sentences carefully and actually parsed them, you would have understood that I was citing FDChief’s service record as a possible reason to visit his blog about other topics.

        Not this one.

        To be clear, here is what I wrote:

        Good blog to visit for other reasons, too; FDChief writes very well-informed and clear military analysis and history. And he doesn’t need rabies shots. Unlike a few other bloggers I could name, some of whom don’t even have service records.

        I expected better reading comprehension. It’s clear this was not forthcoming. Not sure why. But the part of me that matured in a completely hostile environment is now fully awake and processing, so the next time this happens, I’m going to notice.

      • Charles II said

        Well, I am still processing this comment, Stormcrow:

        And he doesn’t need rabies shots. Unlike a few other bloggers I could name, some of whom don’t even have service records.

        Who are these mad dog peaceniks who can’t do proper analysis? It’s all unclear to me. If I have misunderstood, then I am sorry for reacting. But if I may point out, insults that are directed at unnamed, vaguely-described parties can sound like they are aimed, with deniability, at present company.

    • I like how it’s pointed out that Japan’s been doing far more egregious dick-waving over ADIZes, yet the Western (read: US) media didn’t get its undies in a bunch over that: http://milpubblog.blogspot.com/2013/11/adizzy-in-east-china-sea.html?showComment=1385776565921#c6444130361943663512

  3. I think what I see here are two people who I like very much but who are both on hair-triggers right now.

    Gentlemen, please stand down.

    Please.

  4. MarkH said

    This seems like a good time for an international conference by the interested nations to create an understanding of how these areas are to be governed/handled/treated for each nation for for all.

    • Charles II said

      My opinion is that this area, which is not inhabited, should be declared, like Antarctica, a world treasure that everyone has access to, but no one can exploit. Or, if exploitation of minerals/petroleum happens, that the profits go to the nations being affected by climate change.

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