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Editorial: Japan should work to help ease US-China tensions

  • March 3, 2018
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

The Japanese Defense Ministry’s National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS) has published the China Security Report 2018 that analyzes the country’s military trends.


China is moving ahead with its efforts to make the South China Sea a military stronghold, and cyberattacks allegedly from China are continuing. Chinese vessels have continued to intrude into Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, which are also claimed by Beijing.


The latest NIDS China Security Report, the eighth overall, focuses on U.S.-China relations. Specifically, the report points out that China has deployed new, sophisticated intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting specific bases on the continental U.S. and has been beefing up its nuclear force.


In response, the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump is trying to keep China in check by threatening to introduce low-yield nuclear warheads as part of Washington’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. The NIDS report states that U.S.-China relations have come to a crossroad.


The international community needs to pay close attention to U.S-China ties as there are signs that an arms race could break out between the two countries.


At the same time, however, the NIDS report emphasizes that Beijing is continuing dialogue with the Trump administration with the aim of stabilizing its relations with Washington.


In fact, China has communicated with the United States over the Taiwanese issue, which Beijing calls a “core interest,” in an effort to prevent the matter from developing into a political problem.


The U.S.-China relationship remains unstable, but the report states that “China has strengthened a variety of approaches toward President Trump, who is not necessarily captivated by the various principles that have been built up as part of the China-U.S. relationship. Beijing is confident in the cooperation and stability of that relationship.”


Japan needs to pay close attention to trends among U.S.-China relations as the United States is a key ally for Japan and China is a large trading partner.


The role Japan can play in easing tensions in U.S.-China ties is limited. However, the stabilization of the security environment in Asia will serve Japan’s national interests.


To that end, it is indispensable for Japan to improve its relationship with China. With regard to heightened tensions around the Senkaku Islands, it is an urgent task to begin operating the Japan-China Maritime and Air Communications Mechanism at an early date to prevent a contingency.


This spring, the Japan-China defense exchange, which has been suspended since the Japanese government nationalized land on the Senkaku Islands in 2012, will be resumed. A summit meeting between Japan, China and South Korea will be held in Tokyo — the first time for the capital to host such talks in seven years. These will be good opportunities to have dialogue aimed at stabilizing the situation in Asia.


Through dialogue, Tokyo and Beijing should reconfirm the spirit of an “anti-hegemony” clause, which is the core of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China as it marks the 40th anniversary of its signing.


If Japan and China continue dialogue and dispel their mutual distrust, the two countries can build a relationship of trust. Coupled with close Japan-U.S. ties, such efforts will help strengthen Japan-U.S.-China relations.


There are many challenges that Tokyo, Washington and Beijing should jointly resolve through close cooperation, such as the North Korean issue. Japan should help transform the current state of U.S.-China relations into a turning point toward stabilization.

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