September 30, 2010
The diplomatic tensions between Japan and China concerning the fishing boat incident in the East China Sea would have passed unnoticed a short while ago. Not this time. Judging by the latest developments, the US State Department seems determined to prevent the formation of an Asian trade bloc in the region at any cost. Mrs.Clinton’s bidding in the area is currently carried out by Japanese neocon Seiji Maehara, who was appointed Japan’s foreign minister on September 17.
A “China hawk” and a partisan of Japanese re-armament, Mr. Maehara did not take long to become a political liability to Naoto Kan’s embattled government. Using the fishing boat incident, he opted to exponentially increase international tensions on a rather insignificant territorial issue over the disputed islands of Senkaku. According to a recent interview in The Wall Street Journal, he stated that his (bellicose) stance has received Mrs. Clinton’s “unequivocal” backing, even up to the activation of Article 5 of the Japan-USA Security Treaty. In a parallel development, after concluding this week’s visit to China, Russia’s president Medvedev stopped over on the Kamtchatka peninsula where he declared that he intends to visit the (disputed) South Kurils, referring to the islands as Russia’s own.
Politically, Seiji Maehara belongs to the Japanese neoconservatives, that would like to see Article 9 of the Japanese constitution modified in order to allow the country to participate in military expeditions abroad. They share a dislike and, indeed, an envy of the Chinese economic success and do not feel responsible for Japan’s past behaviour during WWII. His recent appointment as Japanese foreign minister is premier Naoto Kan’s biggest blunder to date, which is sure to affect not only Japan-China relations, but Japan’s economic recovery and standing in Asia, as well. The only party which stands to benefit temporarily out of this controversy is the United States, but only just. The US’ insistence to be included in the Asian plans for an EU-style economic community is, in fact, as outlandish and unpractical as, say, a drive by China to be admitted as a full member of NAFTA…
The strategy of stunting China’s economic growth and of preventing Asian regional economic integration has started showing results. The State Department officials responsible for this summer’s diplomatic offensive in Asia are now reaping the seeds of discord they have sown. Thus, the stage is now set in Europe for a confrontation between Naoto Kan and Wen Jiabao at the upcoming Europe-Asia (ASEM) summit hosted by Brussels on October 4 and 5. By provoking divisions and conflict among countries in Asia that could spill over into tensions between Japan and Russia, US policymakers could only drive their country into diplomatic isolation in Asia and possibly elsewhere. (sources: WSJ Europe, Reuters, Malaysian National News Agency)Florian Pantazi