April 12, 2013
A Real World Sanity Test
It would be stupid for China and Japan to again go to war. Stupid, but not impossible. Both claim a small set of islets in the East China Sea — about seven square kilometers of rock — called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan. Recently Japan, which has possession, fiddled with the islets' unresolved status, thereby angering China. While China wants to negotiate Japan innocently says that there is no dispute and nothing to talk about. Absent any diplomatic partner China is aggressively deploying military assets in local waters. Worse, both Tokyo and Washington (notwithstanding Washington's simultaneous, quite contradictory claim that the U.S. is neutral), say the "Senkaku" are covered by a US-Japan security treaty. That puts the U.S. on the hook if there were a military clash. Last October Secretary Clinton's State Department was sufficiently anxious about the possibilities that it sent a high level group to the region to bring order. With no luck. To get a sense of the stakes involved I turned to a British expert, Rod Wye, a 37 year veteran of government service who in his last assignment was head of the Asia Research Group in the Foreign Office, roughly analogous to the top Asia person in State's INR. An extremely judicious, seasoned professional. Total runtime forty two minutes. Lēx tāliōnis.