Hyping tensions sours East Asian relations

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/11 0:13:40

The ministries of defense of Japan and South Korea told media on Monday that a number of Chinese warplanes flew over the Tsushima Strait that day, prompting the two to scramble fighter jets in response. According to Japan, there were eight Chinese warplanes, including six H-6 strategic bombers. South Korea said a dozen warplanes flew within the country's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). It is known that the ADIZs of the three countries have overlapping areas, so each of the three countries is particularly sensitive about its own national defense.

China's defense ministry clarified on Tuesday that it was a routine training exercise. But Tokyo and Seoul have not adapted to this, as PLA exercises such as this are quite rare. Japan later confirmed that the Chinese warplanes did not violate Japanese airspace, but the latest media hype has left the impression that a large-scale confrontation between Chinese and Japanese warplanes was staged. South Korea was just along for the ride, emphasizing that Chinese warplanes flew within its ADIZ. Some South Korean media said the behavior of Chinese warplanes constitutes an illegal invasion.

There are many occasions when warplanes from other countries, including Japan and South Korea, entered China's ADIZ in the East China Sea. But China has exercised the most restraint. If China frequently scrambles fighter jets as a response, Northeast Asia may be dragged into a hostile atmosphere.

There is no war between Beijing and Tokyo. But hyping bilateral tensions in the opinion sphere is provocative. Both believe the other is stirring up troubles. The Japanese think that Chinese warplanes should not fly over the Tsushima Strait and warships should not sail to the Sea of Japan and enter the West Pacific via the waterway between the islands on the first island chain. But to China, the Sea of Japan and the Pacific are in international waters. There is no need to notify Japan.

China and Japan cannot convince each other and all they can do is adapt. The scale of China's naval and air forces is enlarging and they will unavoidably expand their range of activities. The Japanese may find it hard to become accustomed to this reality. But it fits the interests of China, Japan and South Korea if the adaptation process is smooth. The three countries do not want to confront one another, but their communication channels are often congested by realities. China and Japan are locked in a stalemate, and the issue over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system has shadowed China-South Korea ties.

Tokyo and Seoul hope to deter China with US strength, but China has the ability to counter. A balance of power may exist for a long time in the region. Should a confrontational mentality be fixed in the region? In the face of a lackluster situation, China, Japan and South Korea should continue communication. Hatred is least wanted in the region.

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