Japan must bear fallout of Miyako tensions

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/11 23:38:39

What exactly happened over the Miyako Strait on Saturday morning? A spokesperson for China's defense ministry said that two Japanese F-15 fighter jets closely disrupted a Chinese air force training mission with decoy flares over the strait. Tokyo's response has been ambiguous. Some Japanese media said that Japan's Self-Defense Forces denied the claim that decoy flares were fired, while others noted that Tokyo did not mention whether it had launched flares, it only acknowledged the close military jet encounter.

No matter what precisely occurred on Saturday morning, whether Japan fired the flares or not and why it interfered with Chinese jet fighters, the tension over the East China Sea has astonished us all. It seems that Beijing and Tokyo are only one step away from an aerial exchange of fire.

Are the People's Liberation Army (PLA), Japan's Self-Defense Forces and the two societies ready to face the breaking news that fighter jets have been shot down over the waters? The answer is no. That being the case, who has hyped up the tension in the waters?

The Miyako Strait is a standard international waterway with no disputes at all. It is thus legal for Chinese naval and air forces to pass through the area. Under these circumstances, there is no doubt that Japan's Self-Defense Forces are to blame for provoking China's ire in the case.

Tokyo has been boosting its military forces on both sides of the Miyako Strait, including deploying missiles aimed at passing Chinese warships. If the PLA did the same thing in the South China Sea, what would US and Japanese public opinion say about it?

Japan must accept the reality that China is increasing its military activities in the Western Pacific. The previous absence of a PLA presence beyond the First Island Chain is not a reason for Tokyo to treat international waters as its own. All moves from the Chinese side accord with international law and Tokyo must not read Beijing's legal actions as provocation.

If Japan keeps carrying out more dangerous maneuvers against Chinese warships and aircraft, it will have to recognize and take responsibility if there is an accidental shooting at some point. The consequences will be severe by then, which might even entirely ignite the hatred between the two countries. When that day comes, it will be hard to say whether China and Japan can keep the situation under control from spreading into a large-scale conflict.

If Tokyo has not yet determined to have a war with China, it should stop bluffing or sending out dangerous signals.

In the face of Japan's provocation, Beijing has no reason to back away. Given China's strength in the air, much stronger than that of Japan, Tokyo won't gain anything from conflicts with Beijing. In terms of crisis prevention and crisis control, the current mechanism between China and Japan is much worse than that between China and the US. Japan should do some serious thinking about what exactly it wants and what exactly it is doing.

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