(Sankei: November 10, 2015 – p. 2)
To protect “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea, Japan and the United States must join hands and strengthen their call on neighboring countries.
China’s maritime activities are in defiance of international rules. Even if we try to contain these activities, we face a situation that is very hard to manage.
At the Association of Southeast Asia Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADDM-Plus) held recently, the defense ministers were unable to even adopt a joint statement.
China is attempting to gain military control of sea lanes that are critical to free trade in East Asia by unilaterally claiming the right of possession. This threatens the peace and security of the region, and we must not stand idly by.
The United States is periodically sailing warships within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands that China is constructing in the South China Sea and developing into military installations. Japan, the Philippines, and Australia have expressed their support of the operations.
However, the ADDM-Plus chairman’s statement, which was issued in place of a joint declaration, did not include a single reference to “freedom of navigation” or “rule of law,” which the United States, Japan, and others had insisted be included.
China must have called for cooperation from related countries and prevailed with regard to the wording.
The leaders of the United States, Japan, and China will be seeing each other at various international conferences scheduled to take place from mid-November: the G-20 summit in Turkey, the APEC summit in the Philippines, and the East Asia Summit, which will bring together the United States, Japan, ASEAN, and eight other countries in Malaysia.
Chinese President Xi Jinping aims to secure the dominant position in discussions on the South China Sea issue by exerting both gentle persuasion and pressure on neighboring countries through visits to Vietnam and Singapore.
At the upcoming conferences, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should meet first with U.S. President Barack Obama and communicate Japan’s support of the freedom of navigation operations. For countries in the region that hesitate to join forces against China to support the operations, it is critical that the leaders of Japan and the United States together display strong determination.
Of course, China will not be contained by the U.S. military operations in the South China Sea alone.
We would like to see PM Abe take advantage of this opportunity to engage in active summit diplomacy to bring together the international community, which values “freedom of navigation,” to confront China and stop it from building the military installations.
At the same time, it is also vital that Australia, India, and other maritime countries in the Asia-Pacific region strengthen their partnership. There are many contributions that Japan can make, including supporting the Philippine and Vietnamese navies.