"TOKYO (AP) — China's new maritime air defense zone is unenforceable and dangerous, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday, in a continuing war of words over airspace that includes the area above islands claimed by both countries.
Abe told a parliamentary session that China's declaration of an air defense identification zone alters the state of affairs in the East China Sea and escalates a tense situation.
"The measures by the Chinese side have no validity whatsoever for Japan, and we demand China revoke any measures that could infringe upon the freedom of flight in international airspace," Abe said. "It can invite an unexpected occurrence and it is a very dangerous thing as well."
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This time out the Dragon is tripping on its own tail. The first effect of declaring an air defense zone around islands recognized in international treaties as Japan's and publishing a map of the region showing the islands as Chinese territory is to assure the reelection of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The dramatic move was viewed by the Japanese populace as a nakedly aggressive act of bullying. Abe is an advocate of Chinese containment. He has visited all 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations many of which have territorial disputes with China. He is actively building up Japan's Armed Forces. What should be most alarming to China is that the Philippines, once a major check on any Japanese ambitions toward real re-armament, is now encouraging Japan towards military build up and is following suit and seeking to work in coordination with Japan. In short the Dragon is encouraging those who are starting to surround the Middle Kingdom that the Kingdom is occupied by a roaring dragon that eventually will have to be slayed. Abe is a Hawk who would eventually like to dump the constitutional prohibitions against serious armament. The Japanese self defense forces are formidable even within the constitutional limits. Nothing in the constitution prohibits Japan from providing financial aid to the enemies of their enemies .
Had China not decided to act like a thug state it probably could have led the region in cooperative development of the resources of the China Seas, secured a few of the islands it covets through diplomacy or international law suits, and won the preferred customer position for the region's natural resources not under the Dragon's direct control. Instead by making outrageous and illegal territorial claims and attempting to force them by military displays of power the Dragon fashioned a noose for its self consisting of many of its neighboring states now hell bent on containing the dragon. The Soviet Union was never a "contained state", but it went broke trying to avoid the containment efforts of the combined powers of the "Free World". There was a breakdown of the national economy, regime change, a couple of hard decades and now Russia is emerging as powerful state once again. The Dragon at time plays nice with the Bear, but in the end they have a major border dispute. China is surrounded by powers that have grown to distrust her for good reason. How long can a state surrounded by distrustful and some cases powerful neighbors act aggressively and recklessly? History suggests only two possible eventual outcomes. Cold War type containment eventually breaks a regime, there is regime change and serious economic damage and hard times for the general population . However there is also the possibility that the surrounded thug state reacts by becoming even more aggressive and is simply snuffed out by the combined arms of the long alerted and concerned neighbors and their friends. Germany and Imperial Japan were eventually forced to accept "unconditional surrender" because they resorted to arms to break containment . Russia resorted to "Glasnost" or rapprochement with the Free World and experienced an almost bloodless change of regime, with some fairly senior former communists officials winning free elections to major offices.
China could still elect a sort of Glasnost, rein in its aggressive naval and Coast Guard forces and drop the outrageous territorial claims. It won't be easy because the party leadership in control of the national news media has whipped the population into a frenzy over these bogus island "rights". But since the Communist Party does control the Chinese national media they can greatly reduce the impact of a policy reversal. Simply quietly ignore the air defense zone, formally eliminate it later when it is not on the public political issues radar. Pull back from Scarborough Shoal and all of the Spratly Islands within 200 miles of the Philippine coast line, but don't make a major announcement about it. Increase humanitarian aid to the Philippines now in their hour of need. The United States has only one real interest in the China Seas, freedom of navigation. If China were to again take the lead in advocating and facilitating joint development of the region's resources they would not see real counter moves by the U.S. to push China back to the mainland. The U.S. is bound by formal treaties to help defend Japan, the Philippines, and others in the region but not really interested acquiring territory or even oil in the region, and very interested in serving the vast Chinese market. But when China allowed its military to leak its intention of eventually pushing the U.S. Navy back to Pearl Harbor and of making the China seas a closed Chinese lake, they frightened their neighbors who previously were responding well to Chinese "soft power". Now those neighbors are surrounding the Middle Kingdom to either contain it within its own walls or burn it to a cinder if necessary. This will seem premature to the "conventional wisdom" but the dragon has fashioned both a noose and a gallows out of its aggressive behavior. Its neck is in the nose and it is stamping on the trap door of the gallows. There is no one there wanting to pull the switch. The Dragon could stop of its own accord, remove the nose and come down and join the crowd, if it doesn't accidentally trip the trap door with its aggressive pounding.
We don't see the dragon as frightening anymore. The rest of the world may not see it yet, but the dragon is contained, surrounded, and is not invincible. The real danger of China becoming a peer power is in a charm offensive. If the Dragon stopped breathing fire and started using its considerable soft power, it could rapidly become the real "Middle Kingdom" that draws all others to itself , not as vassals but as customers, patrons, and partners.