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Commentary: China’s maritime expansion behind people’s anxiety about U.S.-China confrontation

By Ito Honoka of Kyodo News

 

A total of 87% of respondents said that they are anxious about the confrontation between the United States and China. Behind this lies the reality that China is ramping up its maritime expansion in the East and South China Seas. Some 51% of pollees said they are concerned because of the increase in military tensions, exceeding the 42% who said they are concerned about the rift between the world’s two largest economies because the heightening trade friction may have an impact on the Japanese economy.

 

Some 90% of respondents said that they are concerned about a military confrontation near China, including Taiwan, in the near future. This shows that people feel that a Taiwan contingency or battle near Japan is a possible reality.

 

The Xi administration is beefing up its claim to rights in the South China Sea and is moving forward with developing military facilities, including creating artificial islands with runways. In waters near Japan as well, China is insisting on its sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands of Okinawa Prefecture in the East China Sea and is dispatching China Coast Guard ships to the neighboring waters. The Japanese government is becoming more and more wary.

 

With China in mind, the United States is moving forward with building an economic and security framework with Japan, India, and Australia. In the poll, 54% said that Japan should prioritize the U.S. while 44% said that Japan should remain equidistant diplomatically. This shows that people are concerned that leaning toward the alliance with the U.S. will get Japan dragged into a war. It can be said the Japanese government is being asked to pursue diplomacy that maintains a balance between the U.S. and China.

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